Defendants get a dressing down in our courts
HAVING covered our region's courts for more years than what might possibly be considered healthy, I'm still amazed by what I see and hear in our local halls of justice.
Least of all how people dress when appearing before magistrate or judge.
Surely, these people know they are entering one of our most respected institutions yet I've seen adult defendants walk through the front doors of the Hume St courthouse dressed in pyjamas, filthy work overalls, singlets and thongs and, for one young woman at least, very little indeed.
I still remember the look on the now retired magistrate's face when that young woman shuffled up to the bar table dressed in little more than a bikini - and it wasn't even summer.
Fortunately, the magistrate didn't give her a dressing down, she had little dressing to lose as it was.
"You knew you were coming to court today, didn't you?" the magistrate asked her.
"Yeah!" she replied nonchalantly.
"And you think that is appropriate dress for the court?"
"Y-e-a-h-!" she frowned.
Fortunately, she was only there for an adjournment, surely she would put on a dress for the full hearing when the time arrived.
However, even I wasn't quite prepared for the young chap who approached the bar table in Court 3 this week in the Magistrates Court.
No stranger to the court system, our man obviously knew what lay ahead of him as he appeared on two relatively minor charges.
Obviously, he knew that to curry favour with the magistrate it was best to dress appropriately and wear a tie, which he did.
Quite a snazzy tie too which he had neatly tied around his neck.
No, the problem here was that though he had worn a tie, he hadn't bothered to wear a shirt and collar onto which to affix said tie.
The tie was nestled around his bare neck while his bare chest - sans shirt - was covered in part by a baggy singlet.
Now, it is true that people don't dress as formally as they once did.
Why, look at photos from the 1940s and 50s and you'll see street sweepers dressed in suit and hat.
And, when I started covering our courts all those years ago, the suited defendant was pretty much the norm, but I fully understand how things have become more casual over the years, even in court.
And, even though the bright blue board shorts our man was wearing would have normally been an appropriate accompaniment for the black singlet and tie had he been at the beach, surely trousers would have been more appropriate for the court.
Although, to give him his due, unlike some defendants who I've seen stand at the bar table in mere rubber thongs or barefoot (as more than a few have done), our man was wearing black foot covering boots, albeit a pair that could have done with a bit of a clean and polish.
It's not as if I take an overt interest in the fashion sense of your average defendant, far from it.
But this lad had deliberately approached me at the media table and checked to see that his name was on the court list.
After I assured him that it was, he advised: "Good. I'm pleading guilty. Can you make sure this goes in the paper… I'm famous, you know!"
I was rather taken aback by that affront, ordinarily defendants - and/or their families - approach me asking that the defendant's case not go into the paper.
Now, whether particular cases do or do not appear in the paper has less to do with the defendant's attire and more to do with the substance of the charges and subsequent outcome.
And, our man's particular charges simply didn't merit a mention in Your Good Morning Daily.
However, having gone to so much trouble in preparing himself for his court appearance, I thought it only right that he indeed get a mention in the paper.
Hence this column. I'm sure he would be happy.