CHILDREN ON PREMISES
WHEN CROWN COURT SITS
Helen Gavaghan. Comment published 22nd August, 2019.

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Are you bored I asked the young person sitting in one of the small rooms next to the Court? The room's usual purpose is for advocates to confer with their clients. The answer to my question from the young person was that he was bored. He was sitting quietly. Other young people were playing and romping at Bradford Crown Court in the public area, under the benevolent eye of the Court's security staff who were blocking access to the Court. The door to the Court was locked, and we were all waiting for the judge to finish his sentencing arithmetic. He had "risen" (by which I mean, he had left the bench). The judge had a complicated task, involving charges related to a serious public disorder by people who were all older than those romping outside the Court. Other than those in custody the defendants were all there among the romping children and youngsters and their families. The judge had warned us we would have a wait, saying as he went to his chambers, "I may be some time."

I decided to sit and chat with the young woman with a baby. We discussed such things as, "It's supposed to get warmer tomorrow". I have no idea who she was related to, and do not know her name. The baby was learning how to crawl, and was picking up speed. I told her friend about the sausage dog, cuddly toy I had just bought from Marks and Spencer for my neighbour's new baby. The romping continued, and grew quite boisterous. I found myself standing up and saying, "stop it". Teenagers can be heedless without malicious intent, and might not notice when a baby which is crawling quickly ends up among them as they horse play. The horse play was as much out of boredom as anything else, I would think.

I moved to one side of the Court we were waiting to re-enter, and a representative of local press moved to the other side. I had not brought my mobile. I noticed pressure around the Court room door and a terse exchange about who would get in. There was a plan by Court staff, and the other Courts were not sitting. The situation was being managed. But I still could not stop myself asking the prosecutor if there were not some law about 'reckless endangerment of a baby'. Not too long after my exchange with the prosecutor five uniformed police officers appeared, and I breathed more easily.

I am not criticising the Court, nor its staff, nor the defendants, nor all those wanting to be in the Court for the sentencing. I am questioning the wisdom of my elected representatives in not banning by law the presence of children of 10 or younger on Court premises when a Crown Court is sitting. There is nothing for them there. Nothing at all, and I do not accept not being able to get child care is a reasonable excuse for any youngster of 10 years old or younger being on Court premises when Crown Court is sitting.

PUBLISHED ONLINE AT 20.20 British Summer Time.

After consultation with the shareholders in the magazine owning Science, People & Politics this item may become part of issue 3, 2019 of the magazine.

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