Monday, February 27, 2006

Extract ............... from ::

Gutter Feelings

..... my first book ::

The police were abusing young people by using drunk charges unjustly, it seems to me.

A drink charge was a minor offence and didn’t warrant legal aid, so the young person had to handle the court and his defence himself! You can imagine what a mess an inarticulate, nervous seventeen-year-old would make of this. The police however, trained in court procedures, had their patter ready, and the teenager had no chance unrepresented.

Through the case of McKensie (1970), I discovered a way to provide ‘lay assistance’ to a young person. It seems that when a certain case in history creates a precedent it then becomes law. The precedent was set in 1970 that, ‘any person, whether he be professional or not, may attend as a friend of either party, may take notes, may quietly make suggestions and give advice.’

It often happened that I, as a ‘McKensie friend’, would stand in the dock with my notes, whispering ideas and questions to the youngster as he cross-examined the policeman. Usually the young men began nervously but, with assistance, encouragement and the close proximity of a supportive friend, they always grew in confidence. It was in itself excellent social education and social skills training – but we never won a case.

New methods had to be found to fight injustice.

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