I had to spend time recently sitting on a jury – part of our civic duty and ‘apparently’ an honour and an opportunity to influence my community.
It was an eye opener in many ways, though much I am unable to talk about due to legal obligation and duty, there were aspects that opened my eyes to how our ‘community’ is developing.
Due to travelling arrangement into the City, I took the train. In two weeks I was unable to take a seat, there, or back again. It was packed, standing room only. I value greatly my early retirement and not having to face this battle each day any longer, but I was thinking about how would I get our son and his wheelchair on, when people ewer literally being pushed on. Yes there is a wider access door point for wheelchair users and yes there is a ramp do bridge the gap between platform and train carriage (or ‘saloon’ as the guard called them), but there is no way, I would get a chair on. I did mention this and was told “get a later train” which is all well and good, but if there was a need to get a train to arrive in the city for around 9:00 – 9:30am, for medical appointments or legal appointments etc. there is absolutely no way we could do it. And the Authorities say travel by public transport! Buses and Trams were as bad.
I was appalled on a couple of occasions when I saw a young mother trying to battle with a pushchair to get on and off. Everyone just pushed past her as if she was not even there. I offered her help to lift the pushchair and toddler on and off and received profuse thanks, but also a strange look as if receiving assistance was completely alien to her.
I did get to thinking, how old I had become since retiring. I offered a “good morning” on so many occasions, only to receive a blank look from people who had coffee in one hand and smartphone in the other, headphones or earplugs plugged in giving the impression of them all being cyborgs, being programmed by this central brain … the mobile phone! nobody spoke. Nobody even acknowledged me, or anyone else as we travelled pressed together like sardines in a tin.
During the jury service, I had to face some horrible evidence shared with us and I will admit our small group of twelve did, and still do suffer from recurring images of how bad humanity has become, but it shocked me totally when discussions we were having during our deliberation raised the question of disability and mental illness as well as the effects of medication. I thought I spoke from a position of knowledge and experience, offering coherent argument and debate. To the last person in that Jury panel, they disregarded anything I had to say as relevant to the case and even went as far as to say I was talking rubbish.
I’m happy that others have opinions, but here it was clear that no consideration for disability or mental illness plays any part in crime, or accusation of crime.
It brought to mind an article by the National Autistic Society who were reporting on the very high number of people with Autism are in custody purely because nobody in the police or judicial system has an understanding of how a person can react under certain circumstances where sensory overload is aggravated rather than calmed.
I fear we live in a very blinkered world, and too quick to judge on what we see, not what we understand and I give thanks that my wife and I are still in a position to care for our son and not ‘abandon’ him to the system.