I was in Court on Friday, as a winger for a change rather than chairman. The chairman was a lot like me in that she doesn't suffer fools gladly, and will brook no attempt to disrupt her Court.
In the pre-court briefing, we were warned that one of the cases was likely to be the subject of a demonstration by a group of BNP / EDL agitators.
Following an explanation of the warning,and the intel behind it, the chairman insisted that at least six Police officers and all the dock officers and security staff were made available prior to that case being heard.
Anybody who has seen the inside of Court 8 at Wolverhampton Magistrates' Court (for whatever reason ) will know the layout and be aware that it has a secure dock.
The four defendants were brought into the dock from the cells and at the same time a dozen or so members of the public entered the public area and took up the front seats. By and large they were a nondescript bunch... except for two of them who appeared to have 'EDL' tattooed on their foreheads.
The chairman said "Before this case begins, I would remind those in the public area that this is a Court of law and that interruptions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I will not say this again" at which point, eight Police officers quietly entered the court and took up positions along the back wall of the room.
Every one of the group in the public area were aware of their presence, and that of several security staff and dock officers who were also in the room
The prosecutor rose to speak and explained that the injured party and his family had initially insisted upon attending the hearing but had eventually been persuaded not to do so, with the exception of the boy's father, who was seated in the Press gallery.
The clerk identified the four defendants and put to each of them the joint charge of racially aggravated ABH, to which each of the defendants pleaded guilty.
We then heard how the I/P, a boy aged 13, had been en route to meet his father at their Mosque, when he was waylaid by the defendants, all aged in their late thirties, beaten up, and forced to the ground where some raw bacon was forced into his mouth which was held closed so that he had to swallow it. They then left the scene making racist chants. It is understood that there were more than the four who were in the dock but the remainder took no part in the assault.
It was owing to intervention from some public spirited passers-by that three of the four were seized and held pending the arrival of the Police.
The prosecutor completed his offence analysis by stating that was likely that the case would be committed to the Crown Court for sentence, the Magistrates' Court having insufficient sentencing powers, and asking for remand in custody for all four.
There were three defence advocates for the four defendants and one of them rose to reply and asked that his comments be accepted as adopted by the other two.
He made it clear that they expected the case to go up and asked us to consider remand on bail for the defendants, launching into a long-winded explanation as to why, the main thrust being that these were family men and shouldn't be removed from their families pending sentence.
At this point one of the women in the public area made such a vile racist comment towards the boy's father that we were all taken aback, before the chairman pointed to the individual and said "take her into custody". At which point, one of the men in the same area jumped to his feet and pointing at the chairman made the factually incorrect comment, "N***** lover". The chairman didn't turn a hair and said "That one as well" and then things quietened down as the two were taken out of the Court by Police officers.
We didn't bother to retire and agreed that the defendants would be remanded in custody. As the chairman began to make the pronouncement, one of the individuals with a tattooed forehead, stood up, made the 'gangsta' pistol gesture at the boys father and said "you... AND your f***ing family will be dead by tonight" at which point a further two of them stood up and started making disgusting comments towards the Bench. The chairman didn't even have to raise a hand before they too were taken away, this time by dock officers, down to the cells along with the four defendants who, it has to be said, looked totally bewildered.
When things had quietened down again, the chairman completed the pronouncement, asking the defence advocates to advise their clients accordingly.
As the next case was called on, one further woman ran forward, launching a prodigious gobbet of sputum towards the boy's father, unfortunately hitting one of the defence advocates who attempted to put himself between her and the target.
The remainder of those in the public area rose en mass and to the accompaniment of much quiet grumbling left the Court.
We were informed at the end of the morning that one had been charged with threats to kill, the remainder of those arrested charged with racially aggravated public order offences, assault on an officer of the Court and, of those who left the Court of their own volition, a further two were arrested and charged with racially aggravated assault on a young woman who just happened to be in their way in the foyer and had the wrong colour skin.
So, a clear and unequivocal warning from the chairman, almost as many Police officers as there were agitators, several security staff and dock officers in attendance and they still kicked off, bearing in mind that everything was witnessed by Magistrates and advocates, all of whom were likely to be considered unimpeachable witnesses.
Terminally stupid did I say? ... and then some.
Towards the end of the afternoon, we were informed that four of those arrested during the morning were found to have previous similar convictions, and of those, two had been spotted on mobile CCTV at various BNP and EDL rallies in the local area and were flagged by Police intel.