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Friday, July 19, 2024
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Bleak times at Masterton court

Seamus Boyer

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The Masterton District Court can be a pretty bleak place on list days.

If you end up spending time there, you’ll know what I mean.

Nobody is there because they want to be, and the cases can make for pretty tough listening.

Having been away from the region for two and a half years, I spent a couple of days there recently.

The court itself is much nicer – the last time I worked there proceedings were held in the old Shoprite building around the corner.

But there was also much that was depressingly similar.

The same names were on the charge sheets, the same faces in the dock.

People I had seen on charges three years ago were back on others.

Very few of the accused were appearing for the first time, and according to the judges many had long lists of priors on their records.

For them, their attitude before a judge is telling.

They know the system, they’ve been there before, they’ve seen how the game is played.

In the end, many admit their guilt, take their punishment, and off they go.

But you get the feeling many will be back, different changes, different dates.

Same court.

It’s enough to make you despair.

The court is a public place, and the hearings – for the main part – are public too.

Everyone has a right to be there, and witness the proceedings.

However, very few people do, and while it’s understandable, it’s also a shame.

The people who appear there are members of our community – just like those who work at our supermarkets, play for our sports teams, represent us on our councils.

If we don’t go to court, it’s easy to ignore that these people are among us.

I for one would prefer to have some idea of how our community ticks, for good or for bad.

It’s debatable that we can do much to stop criminals from ending up before a judge.

But it’s better to know that they are there, than to pretend that they aren’t.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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