In the foothills

Had my day of reckoning in court this morning. After adjourning to pursue further legal advice I turned up this morning and pleaded guilty. I had reason to dispute some of the charges levelled at me, but unable to prove my case it was easier – as I was advised – to plead guilty due to extenuating circumstances. This is what I did.

It was a different experience to my last time in court. The queues were longer getting in, and full of what we, back in the day, would call nuff nuffs. Truly, attending court is an eye-opening cultural experience. It makes you think and remember how lucky you are, to have all your wits intact, to be well-educated and have access to opportunity, and to enjoy a standard of life – even if difficult at times – that offers no real reason for complaint.

It was different in the courtroom also. My eyes lit up when I saw the magistrate was a woman. So too were the prosecuting police officers. I had basically accepted that there would be some ritual humiliation once I pleaded guilty. I revised that opinion walking in. I imagined I might get a more sympathetic hearing than last time.

It also removed the risk of me firing up. Fact of the matter is, like many men, my competitive ego gets stoked up when facing another man, especially in such an adversarial environment. I have to contain myself from taking it up to them. I have to bite my tongue for fear of responding with biting and inappropriate comment. My blood pressure goes down as soon as I see I don’t need to do that. I become a gentler and more philosophical soul.

Unlike last time I was soon called up. The magistrate wished me a good morning. I wished her one back. She asked, and I told her I would be pleading guilty, but with mitigating circumstances. The prosecutor read out the charges. In an earlier incarnation I’d have been embarrassed at having my dirty laundry aired publicly. This time I listened patiently, surprised at some of the charges, but choosing not to make anything of them.

As the magistrate confirmed with the prosecutor, I’d been a clean skin previously. This seemed out of character. Why? I explained the sordid circumstances of the last couple of years. In the past a good part of me would have shrivelled up at the thought of the world hearing my sorry tales. I didn’t think of it today, though it was still something I’d rather have avoided.

I wonder how it seemed to the court. Walking in the court clerk had taken me for a lawyer. I had dressed for the occasion, wary of how I should appear. How incongruous was it now that the man in the Armani suit was telling the story of his homelessness?

It worked, after a fashion. I presented as someone who paid proper respect to the court. I’d gone through hard times, but appeared to be a good type, a solid citizen. The magistrate saw that, and the prosecutors had no reason to dispute that. In the end I got a reasonable outcome. I wasn’t cleared, but received a much reduced fine and no conviction. I was out of there by 10.30.

J had come in to sit with me, but had been held up in the queues into the court. He got in just as I was leaving. I took him out for a cup of coffee. I told him the story. I felt so relieved. Appearing in court is no great fun. It’s a spooky, intimidating experience. As I said to him though, you haven’t lived until you’ve appeared in court as a defendant. I can tick that off my bucket list now.

It’s resolved, by and large. There are other matters to deal with, but it should be simpler from here. I had five things on my list. Job and somewhere to live were two. Resolving my court case was the third. Remaining are the ATO, and my creditors. I’ve got a financial counsellor on the case now, so hopefully my debt will be managed. That leaves the ATO, trickiest of all. I’m getting there though. What was a mountain is now but a foothill and a challenging climb. Not there yet, but on the way.



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