On Justice … at the pointy end

As a through and through Melburnian girl, I did something that most people won’t (unless they are called to jury duty, are part of the legal fraternity or are plaintiffs). I went to the Supreme Court of Victoria.

I went along with a well-versed colleague, who informed me graciously of the ins and outs of the court room, and some of the more formal procedures of the court. As a devotee of Victorian and boom time Melbourne architecture, I have always found institutional design of interest. It tells us a lot about the philosophy of maintaining social order at the time of the building’s creation, regardless of whether it is the Old Melbourne Gaol, Willsmere in Kew or the state court of law.

Did you know that you can visit the courts as a civilian whenever you like? Not many people do this however – and I can understand why. There is certainly a weight and heaviness to the space, as you would expect. Lives are changed and judgements ruled. I sat in on a hearing in a grand court. It was all deeply stained wood, seats worn glossy smooth by decades of anxious buttocks, decorative plasterwork, signs imploring you to silence. It was a beautiful, imposing space.

Even though this doesn’t relate directly to Ruby Slipper Consulting, I thought to comment on it. The people being tried for heinous crimes (white collar or otherwise) sat there in the dock, with their motivations and actions being pored over by the state. The distance between the observer and the alleged criminal is only metres and air. They are not so different from us – what differs between us is the series of decisions we make with our lives. We all of us have the potential for great good – or great evil.

I was surprised by how banal and orderly delivering justice for the state was. It only served to highlight how horrific the crimes were – and how paper thin the wall between the observer and the criminal is.

This experience makes me all the more determined to make the right decisions with my own life, and to watch with interest the machination of our society from a safe distance.

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