Sunday, September 21, 2008

Our Day in Court


The intention was to walk into town with the kids, get to the butcher's shop, and buy some new clothes for Boris, whose rapidly lengthening body has outrun even his remarkable ability to wear holes in his clothes! That was the intention, in practice we ended up in the cells beneath Perth Sheriff Court!

Nothing sinister was afoot however - yesterday was 'open doors day' in many of Perth and Kinross' public buildings. We didn't know that until we walked past the court-house and saw the banner, I suggested going in and en famille hideouse were up for it so in we went. After a long wait, we were taken on a tour of the whole place, solicitors rooms, witness rooms, jury rooms and the courts themselves. They had DVD's on queue to show us what a trial in progress would look like and policemen and court officers there explaining the history of the building and the legal system as well as where everyone sits in the court and their roles. Boris and Norris were delighted to be invited to sit on the judges bench, and while Boris grinned at the chamber, Norris affected an suitably disdainful and imperious judicial gaze.

Last of all - having been convicted and passed sentence upon by Sheriff's Boris and Norris (who were disappointed to learn that cruel and unusual punishments were not within their power) we were dispatched to the cells. These were a revelation of grimness, a dark underground gulag without air, windows, comfort or humanity. The guard who worked in this dungeon added to the drama by describing the awful heat down there when it is full, the drug-addicted prisoners going crazy for a fix, the fights, vandalism and misery of the long, long wait for trial. He described tragedy of seeing the same faces, week-in-week out, being repeatedly bailed for minor offences, mostly gaining cash to feed addictions. He described the assaults he has suffered along with the abuse, down in that lost soulless subterranean chasm. Most chillingly of all, he bemoaned the loss of the death penalty and his desire to see it re-instated.

Back up the stairs we saw the rest of the offices, the library and the old ball-room which for many years held Perth's annual hunt-ball. It was a fascinating visit, which illuminated both the processes of justice, and the tragedies of victims and perpetrators of crime, alike.

2 comments:

That Hideous Man said...

(PS we weren't planning on buying said clothes at the butchers shop - however ambigious the wording of my first paragraph)

scottish terrier said...

I 'did' the court last year and found it very educational. You seem to have had better guides, I had lady who had only worked there a couple of weeks so kept referring hesitantly to crumpled piece of paper for her commentary. This year I got a free couple of hours wandering the policies of Scone Palace, soggy underfoot but great. Saw rufty tufty/ squirrel nutkin playing on the grass.