I have recently worked with a young man from Eastern Europe (I’ll name him Martin). When his employer chose to open up a new store in London, he was selected and moved to London with his partner. For two years he live above the shop and devoted his efforts to his work and the store grew. Working long hours he was happy, contended and entirely focused on his work. He omitted to develop a social life of any sought. Sadly just after two years, his partner died.
Aged just 24 years, friendless, in strange country miles from home and struggling with grief, Martin turned to drink. His dependency grew, the business suffered to the extent that it could no longer afford to pay Martin. Faced with the stark choice between starvation and petty crime, he choose to steal and was caught. Being employed, the courts imposed a fine with costs. The recession however added to the woe and the business he had built up, now suffering under his alcoholic supervision; collapsed completely. Martin was now; unemployed, homeless plus had the court fine to pay!
One night the rough sleeping Martin was found by outreach members of a religious charity and after selection for suitability he was provided accommodation, food, twelve months structured counselling for his alcoholism and security. I was provided (pro bono) grief counselling and motivational therapy.
In the meantime the court, fed up with Martin not paying his fine issued a warrant and he duly attended court.
Supported by a member of the charity, he arrived in court, freshly scrubbed, suited and rehearsed. Requesting more time to pay as opposed to a harsher sentence, Martin explained that he was ineligible for benefits but under the charities umbrella he would receive a weekly allowance of just £10 per week. Of this he offered £5 of that money every week. He also knew that without income he faced the potential of prison.
After some deliberation, the court declared they recognised Martin had reached the bottom but had made real and credible steps to turn his life around. The court removed the fine and allowed Martin a fresh start (albeit it with a criminal record). The last words Martin heard from the court were from the Chairman of the Magistrates Bench were “the bench wishes you every success.”
This is a great example of justice and a comfort to us all. I truly hope that under the new and enlarged court systems, our magistrates will still have time to listen to the true stories behind people like Martin.