The circus called justice

2011-02-07 00:00

IT has been seven years since justice last shat on me, but almost forgotten.

I was subpoenaed to court C at 9 am last week and sat dutifully for the mandatory hour on the hard wooden bench waiting for the circus to begin.

First up was an immaculately turned-out adolescent in a black gown, chewing gum and scratching the scabs off his zits — the state prosecutor. I guess we must all begin somewhere.

Fortunately, the legal aid-provided defence was no match. It was rather like my tepid midmorning cappuccino, from the tucked-away takeaway downstairs — synthetic froth without bite. The magistrate, a no-nonsense lass with an attitude enough to pulverise a defiant Julius Malema, didn't take well to having her court turned into a crèche for wanna-BEE newbie's of the legal fraternity. A practised scowl silenced the public, disarmed her court jesters and the gig ground into gear.

"The witness has already answered that question, move on; then rephrase the question man and please speak up, not even the tape can hear you; mister prosecutor, are you with us; what do you say?"

I sat catching flies, trying hard not to shake my head, to concentrate instead on Clarissa Pinkola Estes's Women who Run with Wolves.

The case for which I was in court was the calling of 10111 in the middle of the night to request that the police attend a disturbance of the peace in the neighbourhood. An enthusiastic police reservist was dispatched and requested that the shebeen reduce its decibels. He was ignored, abused, threatened and with a firearm, and discharged. The owner, the accused, then fled and had been a fugitive of justice until a common assault docket caught up with him and the accompanying subpoena caught up with me. I was required to confirm in court that I had indeed called 10111. My waiting in court had given me plenty of time to practise my response: "Yes, your worship, guilty as charged, I did indeed call 10111 at 3 am."

Why it was necessary for me to provide such evidence in court when a three-page sworn statement was attached to the docket was beyond my comprehension.

I told the prosecutor this at 9 am. He wasn't familiar with the case. He had not perused the docket and certainly hadn't read my statement. I handed him a copy.

"Typed?" the defence lawyer commented, eyebrows raised. "We don't see many of them." The defence has no need of me either. "So why are you here?"

"Because I was subpoenaed by this court." I thrust the evidence under his nose.

He shrugged. I would have to wait to see whether the alleged fugitive showed up.

By break he hadn't and I was informed of the inevitable and what had been obvious since 9 am. My testimony would wait for another day, another subpoena and another prosecutor, so the accused could have another hearing, make another legal aid application, be assigned another court jester and have another day in court to perpetuate this circus of legalised abuse of Joe Public.

Hopefully, I'll be out of the country, when this circus next comes to town. It's enough to drive one to a life of crime.

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