• Robert Spicer

Class Justice and Magistrates’ Courts

The realities of class justice can be seen in the magistrates’ court on any day when it is in session.

A visit to a magistrates’ court in any city will show class justice at its clearest. At the top of the class, the haves: magistrates, lawyers, probation officers, social workers, well-educated, well-dressed, well-fed, articulate, self- confident, secure and in control. The courts are their realm. They have the knowledge and the power.

At the bottom of the class, the have-nots, defendants and witnesses, poorly-educated, confused, inarticulate, out of control. The weak, vulnerable, inarticulate, inadequate, excluded. They wait to be processed by a system which excludes them except as victims. There is never the slightest doubt as to which class they belong. It is impossible to confuse a twenty-year old charged with burglary with a twenty-year old trainee solicitor, or a fifty-year old woman accused of petty theft with a magistrate of the same age.

You may see the odd radical lawyer or the unusual white-collar accused.

You are unlikely to spot a tax evader, a weapons salesman, a loan shark, a polluter or an employer who negligently kills or injures workers. You will never see a war criminal. You are more likely to see an obese young single mother in handcuffs, waiting to be sent to prison for shoplifting. The prisons fill up with the have-nots, while the war criminals excuse themselves from responsibility. But the machine of the criminal courts grinds on, processing the alienated and excluded.

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