Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Why I Love Criminal Law

This morning one of my colleagues had to go down to Central Local Court for a sentence. There's nothing unusual about that - sentences happen all the time. Nor was there anything particularly unusual about the reluctance of the convicted offender to face court to have his fate sealed and to hear the length of his prison sentence. What was somewhat more unusual was the way this offender chose to try to avoid facing court. Held in the cells below, he believed that if he refused to get dressed, then the corrective services officers would not take him up to the dock. However they did and he fronted up to court in his birthday suit. The court system is already overlogged as it is and thus does not take the time to wait for dignity.

I must admit that I love criminal law. I've only been working in the area for five months, but I seriously can't see myself doing anything else. Of course a huge part of this has to do with frequently being in or around the courts, but there is so much more than this. Working in criminal law you get to see humanity in all of its dysfunctional glory. You are exposed to the pathological and the inexplicable, the evil and the just plain depressing. Rarely are things emotionally flat - you are always dealing with extremes. This is because there are so many parties with competing interests, whether it be the accused, their family or the alleged victim. And right in the middle are these barristers and solicitors who are meant to remain totally objective throughout.

I find that criminal law is much more than simply being exciting. Rather, criminal law is a spiritual experience. I am confronted with defendants and I can't help thinking about the fact that I am where I am today before I had a relatively stable upbringing with a loving mother who brought me up admirably in the circumstances. Much of the time, those who end up being brought before a court have not been so lucky. I cannot help but think that I have been a beneficiary of God's grace. I also come to realise in that respect that a person is more than merely their crime. Those who commit crimes are hardly different from me in so many respects - we all eat, sleep and have families. We all have those aspects of our lives that we regret. This is a sombre reminder to me that I am not above others and that I am not above weakness and wickedness. We are all human and we all struggle through this torrid journey called life.

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