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I've always supported the idea of magistrates courts personally, but if my last experience is anything to go by, perhaps their recruitment system isn't getting the best candidates through.
Had a civil matter in a magistrates court a fortnight ago - CSA wanting to commit my client to prison for non-payment.
Once introduced, etc., I said to the court, before the application started, that in fact it should be dismissed as the evidence put forward by the CSA was incapable of proving their case (it was bank statements relating to a period of time before the debt) and therefore the whole application should be dismissed now.
Magistrates discuss with each other and then pronounce. "Mr X, stand up. We find you guilty of wilful default and sentence you to..." FFS!! I had to respectfully interrupt and point out to the court that they hadn't actually heard the case or any of the evidence yet - neither from the CSA or our side(!), let alone any mitigations or submission on disposal. Brilliant!
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