Summoned for Christmas

Getting a summons for driving without due care and attention just added insult to injury,  I had been knocked unconscious, fractured ribs, vertebrae, punctured my lung and my left kidney. But my letter advised me that it would go better for me if I admitted culpability.  I felt hurt and not a little grievous.         

So when the magistrate, a pleasant enough lady about my age, asked ‘Do you plead Guilty or Not Guilty?’, I looked at her with what I thought was an innocent smile and replied ‘Can I plead Don’t know?’  She stared at me, heavy lidded. Undeterred, I went on to explain that I could not remember anything about the accident.  The time from filling up with petrol in Fulwood and coming to in the ambulance has been erased.  It still is.  How wonderful it would be if everything else could be erased like that.

Warming to my theme with a degree of righteous indignation, I indicated that that particular road junction was difficult.  The independent witness had drawn attention to the tall grasses that obscured vision, the junction is at an angle and at the top of a hill, so you had to look over your left shoulder to see anybody coming up from Sheffield while cars coming the other way could disappear into dead ground. Besides I hadn’t received the prosecution witness statement.      

I was clearly perceived as being awkward.  Moi?  A doctor and therapist; a model of compliance and understanding – the very idea!  Heads edged together as the bench  decided what to do. Then with anxiety glinting in her eyes and a calm politeness that indicated caution, the good lady advised that I get a solicitor to represent me and return on the 18th, just a week before Christmas. I bowed to the court and departed with dignity.   

Mr Johnson was about my age, somewhat overweight with bluff, friendly manner;  Rumpole of The Wicker.  He looked me in the eyes, ‘Well, doctor, there’s no point in trying to defend this.  They will screw you for every penny they can.  You can’t win.  You’re a professional, you are perceived as rich and relatively privileged.  It’s not fair, but who said society was fair?  Best to plead guilty, explain the mitigation and accept three more points on your licence. I can come and do that for you if you like. It’ll cost you seventy pounds.’  

That agreed, he expounded on how much the law bends over backwards to protect the criminal.  ‘You can stamp on somebody’s head on a Saturday night in the Wicker, spend a night in the cells, and they’ll fine you a hundred quid.  I received a parking fine of £70 for leaving my car in the road round the back. I asked the officer if I could pay him an extra ten pounds and go in and rob ASDA, because that would only incur a fine of £80. But the law doesn’t treat decent, honest middle class people very well. And you won’t get legal aid.  You’ll have to pay for everything.’  

He picked up his blackberry, stubbed at the keys with pudgy fingers but couldn’t get through.  He held it at arms length and stared at it cross eyed as if trying to hypnotise it into submission. He looked at me, sighed, jabbed at the object in his hand.   ‘And this is the magistrates court.  They’ll play me music in a minute!’   

‘But don’t these things drive you mad.  I was at my doctor’s the other day.  As soon as I came in, he started typing away on his computer.  ‘Nigel, I said, look at me, look at me!’  I could have had a heart attack while he was typing away and he wouldn’t have noticed.  And if eventually he did, he would have written his report first and only then called the ambulance!’

‘The world has changed, doctor, changed beyond recognition.  And we’re seen as dinosaurs.  Nobody seems to understand any more.  And nobody knows anything!  None of my staff know their times table.  Do you believe it?  What are seven sixes – I ask and they look at me blankly and say ‘Dunno.’  He raised his eyes to the ceiling.  

We laughed!  It was ridiculous; no point in being too serious about it.  It was fun being grumpy for a bit. I’d found a kindred spirit, a friendly ghost of Christmas past – right out of Dickens. It was going to be a good Christmas after all.