Saturday, 28 January 2012

At the magistrate's court

No, not arrested and brought before the beak to be fined for laughing merrily in a public place. I voluntarily went to Brighton Magistrates Court today (Friday), to enquire about making a Statutory Declaration on oath before a magistrate. This is one of the bits of paper needed for my Gender Recognition Certificate application. The very last item to gather in.

Facing me as I entered were two court security officers at a desk, who asked me to show me the contents of my bags and empty my pockets. The little Leica in my handbag was found, examined carefully, and retained until my departure. A black mark, clearly!

Then through the metal detector. Bleep, bleep, bleep!!! Oh dear, I'd forgotten the keys hung around my neck. Sorry, sorry! I felt instantly criminalised. Fortunately there were no further bleeps or buzzes as the brace of hand-held detectors were run across my body and down my limbs. Well of course, anyone could see that I might be intent on evil. The camera proved it.

Then I faced the office staff. I explained what I wanted, and showed my printout of a model Statutory Declaration taken from the GRC Panel website. I wondered what the reaction would be. Surely they must - in Brighton of all places - get a constant stream of trans people making the same enquiry? Dozens every week. They must be totally familiar with this request? But the girl who saw me seemed puzzled at first. Maybe I misread her; but I hoped that I wouldn't have to go into a long explanation of what this was about, not with the two security staff just feet away, and already suspicious.

She took the printout away, then returned. And from then on, she was very helpful. She said the magistrate dealt with these things in court from 9.30am. This was Friday: I could make my Declaration on Monday. That was fine by me. The fee was £25, much as expected. I need not pay in advance, but I did. I wrote out a cheque, got a receipt, was given my camera back, and I walked out a free woman. The people on the steps outside, obviously due to appear in the court shortly, made way for me with apologies: how very polite. Surely guilty people would scowl and be horrible?

So Monday it is. Bright and early. Ushered in, stood in the dock, and made to swear on the Bible. Or affirm.

Magistrate: 'I find you guilty as charged. Take her down.'

The black mariah. A bleak cell. No appeal. Years pass. I emerge old and broken.

Better not take the camera.


  1. I remember times not so long ago when children would leap out in front of you and be desirous of being immortalised on film, a camera on the street was a rare sight.

    Now you would probably be dragged into court after the complaints by so demented mother whose brains have been addled by the rantings in the media!

    Now the only people who do not take photographs in the street are "photographers"!

    Camera = dangerous pervert in the eyes of the law...

  2. I don't know why a Deed Poll isn't enough, that's the way I went but not everyone agrees that is the right thing to do. What the heck? I did it and all without swearing! All I needed was a witness and that was provided by the solicitor.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  3. I would just plead guilty and be done with it. Will you be visitng us sporting pink fluffy handcuffs after Monday?
    Impressed that you managed to see a live human being. Last time I had to do something vaguely official at Brighton Court it involved pressing lots of buttons on a machine and posting bits of paper into slots that devoured them hungrily.

  4. If they do detain you, ask for Dartmoor or Exeter, then I can visit you! I have a few friends who are magistrates, but sadly none in Brighton, or I'd have put in a good word or two.

    Seriously, Lucy, this is one of the last steps on your journey and an important one, so I hope it all goes smoothly.

    Angie xx


This blog is public, and I expect comments from many sources and points of view. They will be welcome if sincere, well-expressed and add something worthwhile to the post. If not, they face removal.

Ideally I want to hear from bloggers, who, like myself, are knowable as real people and can be contacted. Anyone whose identity is questionable or impossible to verify may have their comments removed. Commercially-inspired comments will certainly be deleted - I do not allow free advertising.

Whoever you are, if you wish to make a private comment, rather than a public one, then do consider emailing me - see my Blogger Profile for the address.

Lucy Melford