People watching, is something I do for a living.
As a professional photographer there’s always the opportunity to observe the way people react, their emotions, body language or simply their habits disgusting or very ordinary.
So the fact that I was sitting in the waiting room of a magistrate’s court having been summoned as a witness provided me with an excuse to spend three and a half hours just sitting and watching.
The characters that filled that time were quite extraordinary and in particular I was interested in the people attending the youth court which was taking place in an adjacent courtroom.
My first impressions were of the defendants, accompanied by parents, freshly scrubbed faces suitably ‘suited and booted’ with smartly knotted ties around necks that were obviously unused to such restriction, all trying desperately to show remorse and respect for the court.
The dress of the parents, however, was not so well considered, T-shirt, jeans with rips and hoodies, I began to wonder if their efforts in presentation of their child would really sway the minds of those sitting in judgement when they looked at the so called responsible adults accompanying them.
Something else that stood out was the pride with which these children held their new found attention, the bravado of swearing at their solicitors and relating how they had punched, kicked and nicked their way to their five minutes of infamy.
I was astonished at the relish and excitement with which a few hours community service instead of ‘a custodial’, was greeted by the recipient and friends as though it was a competition to see whose sentence held the greatest kudos.
Looking around the waiting room it was obvious the contempt and lack of respect for the system that those required to attend demonstrate; from the loudly audible burps and other bodily functions to the women using the most vulgar and disgusting swearwords in a casual and everyday manner.
It’s difficult not to stereotype and create prejudices but the uniform of dysfunction seemed everywhere the clothing, jewellery, hairstyles, tattoos and piercings, none of which make the character wearing them any lesser person, but they really weren’t trying to disprove these impressions.
I found it disturbing to hear how ‘inconvenient’ it was to have to wear an electronic tag, not for the reasons of punishment or shame but it meant keeping one leg out of the bath and not being able to meet your mates after 6pm, but “hey it didn’t stop me playing Grand Theft Auto”.
As I was called into court I realised how privileged I’d been to see this piece of British culture in action and that ‘reality TV’ isn’t a patch on real life.
The rewards for crime seem to be greater than the sympathy for victims of crime it really is time that we stop protecting the perpetrators; if they’re old enough to have a social media account, they’re old enough to be identified.
With such pride in the way they look and behave and with such little respect for authority maybe it’s time to start a special Facebook page and let everyone see how proud they really are.