An Afternoon with the Magistrate


I had a referral for a Mental Health Act Assessment earlier in the week and needed to go and get a warrant from the local Magistrate’s Court. Well, when I say, I needed, it was me along with another ASW as I’m not yet approved and she had to do the actual legal work but I went scurrying behind like a faithful hound!

The referral was straightforward and clear in relating the extensive risks involved. I prepared the written submission to the magistrate to explain why a warrant was needed, namely that

1) there was strong evidence of mental disorder which exists at a level to be a risk to the patient themselves (as in this case as there was no element of risk to others)

2) Why access could only been gained with the use of a warrant

(A number of visits had been attempted and access had not been granted previously – so there was a pretty good history).

We went along to the court and a clerk initially took the details and sent us up to one of the Courts to wait.

squeakymarmot sqeakymarmot @ flickr

While we were waiting about three cases came up before the magistrate.

I’m always quite interested in the workings of the court as it seems to be a completely different world.

All the cases I saw were drugs-related in some way. And one of them I was almost afraid I’d start laughing.. (I didn’t, thankfully).

A man had pleaded guilty to possession of Heroin but not guilty to possession of Cannabis.

The police evidence showed that he had admitted having both Heroin and Cannabis at the time of his arrest – and afterwards had said he didn’t have any Cannabis.

There was an interesting exchange

‘So it wasn’t cannabis’

‘No’

‘What was it?’

‘I don’t know’

‘It was some kind of herbal substance that the police office describes as cannabis’

‘It wasn’t cannabis’

Magistrate turns to prosecutor

‘Is there any analysis of the substance?’

‘The heroin was analysed’

‘Mr A has pleaded guilty to possession of the heroin so that isn’t disputed – what about the other substance?’

‘It seems to be an unconfirmed herbal substance’.

In the end after a little bit of back and forth to establish what the small amount of ‘herbal substance’ was – I think the Magistrate did the only sensible thing and said that as he had pleaded guilty to possession of the heroin anyway, it didn’t actually matter what it was!

Anyway, as far as we were concerned, the ASW took the oath, the written evidence was submitted, read, returned and the warrant signed without a word. It’s a fairly clear process – but the attendance at court definitely impresses on the enormity of what you are asking to be done.

I contacted the local police to ask them to attend the assessment in order to allow us to execute the warrant. There are no concerns regarding physical safety in this sense – so it’ll just likely be a couple of officers who can stand well back and hopefully not even enter the house.

Hopefully, it won’t be too long to wait..

2 thoughts on “An Afternoon with the Magistrate

  1. If it interests you why not consider applying to become a Magistrate? It is always interesting and people of all sorts and from all walks of life are eligible and needed.

  2. I did actually think about it at some point – but at the moment I don’t think my working schedule would allow for me.. maybe when I’m semi-retired!

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