The usher beckoned to me... come over here.
I crossed over to stand behind a barrier. “Are you Mrs. D, of Ascot? Is your date of birth.... “ The identifying questions began. The charges were read. “And how do you plan to plead?”
“Guilty, sir.” There, that part’s done.
The duty solicitor had come in when I was called forward, and now he described my situation for me to the magistrates (so I didn’t have to represent myself after all!) The clerk, the magistrates, and the solicitor went over the charge (which was “only” drink/drive, not insurance too -- whew!) They discussed my intention to ask to take the Drink/Drive course if I could, and my ability and intention to pay my fine. I was grateful that I didn’t have to speak much myself. (In fact, I’ve always really enjoyed public speaking, but somehow this wasn’t quite the same thing. From high school graduation speaker, speaking to 3,000, to a criminal in court, speaking to 8. Hmmmm.)
The magistrates adjourned to decide my fate.
“Mrs. D. In view of the circumstances, and the fact that you will be leaving the country today, we wish to proceed in the most expeditious manner. We thus impose a fine of £250, with an additional £55 court fees. Unfortunately, and I think this will hit you harder, we must also suspend your license for one year, the mandatory minimum revocation time period. However, we will allow you to take the DDE course, if you are able, which would reduce the revocation period by three months. Understanding, of course, that it may be impossible for you to schedule it, since you will be living in South Africa. And you will be able to reapply to get your license back again after the year is up. Meanwhile, you are not allowed to drive on any roadway in the United Kingdom, in any motor vehicle, for a period of one year. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir, I do.”
“Very good. And may I say best of luck in South Africa, Mrs. D. The usher will show you out.”
Well. Done and dusted. The best news was that I would be able to get my license back in a year. I so valued it, and had worked so hard to FINALLY get it. Interestingly, they don’t put “points” on your license, they just take it away. So the “New Driver’s Law”, which suspends your license if you get too many points, and means you have to start all over again, with theory and practical tests repeated, didn’t apply! How perversely lucky for me!
I paid my fine by credit card, and then remembered to ask for a copy of the criminal charge sheet, since I had nothing else to document this ... unique.... experience. The usher was only to happy to make a photocopy, two even. She smiled radiantly and said, “Well, I don’t know why you shouldn’t have a copy. It’s all about YOU!”
Right. All about me.
Thank goodness there’s more to me than just that.