If you want a quick induction into the problems facing London, spend a few days in a busy magistrates' court, where every case exposes a different contemporary challenge.Only for a certain type of person.
"The offence took place at the work address of Mamadu X," the Crown Prosecution Service lawyer tells the courtroom. Mamadu, an office cleaner, has pleaded guilty to stealing a small amount of cash, of a value unknown, belonging to his employer. The lawyer describes how a webcam at the office has captured footage of an agency cleaner, at 5.40am, searching for money in the trouser pockets of a suit and then putting the money in his own pocket.A pretty open & shut case. But the excuses won't be unfamiliar to regular readers:
The defence lawyer stands up to offer some explanation. "He says the only reason he stole that day was because he didn't have enough money to get home. He is a man of good character. He said he was embarrassed and ashamed.
"He did this out of desperation, I would say. He is the father of three children, a Portuguese national who came from Portugal two years ago. He is living with his sister and he sends what little he earns home. He is only employed two hours a night, and earns about £200 a month only. It's reasonable to suppose that he really did have no money for his fare home. It's difficult to imagine how anyone could survive on that little living in London."It's not difficult at all. He 'survives' by supplementing his income with the opportunities afforded him by his job!
A 34-year-old man, Bshart, is brought up from the cells, accused of stealing a packet of condoms worth £6 from Poundland. The defence lawyer stands up, trying to downplay the significance of the offence.
"This is a low-value theft and an unsophisticated one. My client said he was planning to sell them because he wanted to buy food." The lawyer explains that Bshart is receiving jobseekers' allowance, but has alcohol and heroin addictions that he needs to fund.Yes, thanks to the EU, we are importing heroin addicts on the sole. You couldn't make it up.
This is the single most disturbing thing about spending time in a magistrates court: that the vast majority of people who come through the doors are struggling financially.Errrr, no. Trust me, that's not even close to being the most disturbing thing here.
London's extraordinary diversity is reflected in the court interpreters who come to translate from Polish, Lithuanian, Portuguese and around 153 other languages.All must praise diversity! No matter how it presents itself...
We don't find out why Artur, 32, decided to lie backwards over the bonnet of a woman's car while she tried to drive out of a cinema car park with her child, or why he looked at her chest and shouted "Big, big, nice, nice" before punching the car bonnet with his elbow. It's not clear why a new mother apparently left her young baby behind to walk to the shops, and why somehow, on the way, she got into a conversation with a man, before disappearing into an alleyway with him to perform oral sex, observed by plain-clothes police officers. She pleads not guilty to outraging public decency.
"She doesn't get out very often as a young parent," her lawyer says.Yes, it's another world, all right. And it's certainly eye-opening.
But not, I suspect, in the way the writer had hoped.