“Guilty — With an Explanation”
There can’t be a better slice of island life than a morning spent hearing the convoluted excuses, remonstrations, and final verdicts of Plea Court. The special session of Magistrates Court (23 Parliament St., tel. 441/295-5151 ext. 1230), held weekdays at 10 a.m., brings out every segment of the population to answer to accused crimes, both trivial and serious. Intoxication, shoplifting, handbag-snatching, assault, swearing in public — the litany of “summary-only” offenses can rarely be tried in Supreme Court and must be dealt with by a magistrate.
The courtroom exudes an almost Dickensian aura as defendants are called one by one to enter a plea to their respective charges. If they choose “not guilty,” the court adjourns the case for reviews, social reports, or to fix a trial date. But it is the “guilty” pleas to trivial offenses that are most entertaining, when defendants of all social standings let their creative juices flow as they try to win a lighter sentence or fine before the magistrate’s bench.
“Guilty — with an explanation” is almost always the prelude to a hilarious yarn; it’s met by anticipatory sniggers all around. If he’s had a coffee break or it’s Friday, the presiding magistrate may join in the fun with snappy comebacks or personal anecdotes that delight the press box, lawyers, prosecutor, public, even the other defendants awaiting their turns. Of course, a crotchety magistrate can put a damper on the jovial proceedings just as easily.
© Rosemary Jones from Moon Bermuda, 2nd Edition