Sometimes the lives of offenders sound like an episode of the Jeremy Kyle Show as defence solicitors endeavour to persuade Magistrates to give the lightest sentence in their pleas of mitigation.
Today we heard how a 26 year old mother, given a 2 year Anti-Social Behaviour Order on the 4th August 2011, had breached it only 5 days later.
I was moved by her story as her solicitor eloquently told the Court of the human struggles behind the offence.
A single mother, with a sad history of bereavement, alcohol and drug issues, had an ASBO imposed prohibiting her, or other occupants, from shouting, screaming, singing and door-slamming in her flat.
The “other occupant” was her 11 year old son whose father had sadly died and with whom she had ongoing parenting difficulties.
His behaviour was extremely challenging and the Court heard how mum was working with a key worker, undertaking a Triple P Parenting course, engaging with her son in family therapy, working with Social Services and being psychiatrically evaluated.
The ASBO had been breached by shouting and slamming doors on the 9 August and was not denied.
The reasons behind the breach were compelling: the parenting work had reached “boundary setting” stage and on the 9 August Miss H had told her son they were going to the gym; he wanted to play on his X-box.
Seeking to exercise her newly-learned parental authority Miss H removed the lead from the X-box and insisted he go with her.
At this point the child kicked off, a row ensued and mum faced the dilemma of allowing him the whip hand or saying no and enforcing the boundaries.
She chose the latter and the ensuing row meant the ASBO was breached.
What a dilemma for the Justices…
Other cases included a retired police officer pleaded guilty to assaulting… a police officer , whilst under the influence of alcohol, and who would guess that a street drinker, before the Court for refusing to hand over a can of Red Stripe in St Andrew’s Churchyard, has a degree, a Masters and is partway through a PHD.
He started his career as a customs officer before becoming bedevilled by mental health problems, medicating with alcohol and starting a downward spiral to multiple drink related offences.
Drink is as big a problem as drugs in the lives of those appearing before the Courts and alcohol dependency does not discriminate on the grounds of class, financial status or upbringing.