So today, in the middle of my revising, I took time out to go to Magistrate Court.
As I mentioned yesterday, last Friday night I received a notice from a bailiff who wanted a crapload of money for a speeding ticket I didn't know I had or he was going to turn the warrant in and I would go to jail. Not the best place to finish studying for exams.
I had a panic. I had a cry. I had another panic. Then I got some perspective. My friends Nadine and Pratap talked me down, my friend Kieren's wife, Corrie, suggested I check to see if it was even real, and my friend Justin reminded me that I had to immediately talk to the court because they simply can't do this if I didn't know.
Armed with all this advice and support, I called the magistrate court that issued the warrant. Turns out they had a speed camera photo of my car speeding, and had put a slew of fines on it since I'd never gotten in touch. I explained that I would have, if they'd TOLD me they wanted to talk to me. After telling my story to about seven people in various transfers and referrals, I got to the people who were handling my case at this stage and they explained that I could file a statutory declaration here in MK to get the thing thrown back into the system so I'd have a chance to defend myself.
So. I called the necessary people, got the necessary appointments and had the paperwork sent up.
Everyone was very helpful. A series of men named John helped me fill out the paperwork. One of them (the usher, who plays the role I traditionally think of as bailiff - as opposed to the cat-burglar ruffian type the call a bailiff here,) even wears a robe. I went into court and told my story to three magistrate judges. I got to swear on a bible. The clerk asked me questions. I read my statement outloud...I didn't remember the incident, I'd never received notification of the offense before and if I had I would certainly have responded, all of which is the truth. I couldn't prove it was me, I couldn't prove it wasn't me, but if I'd known I needed to I would have tried. They approved my request, and now the case has been cleared. It's possible that the original police authority may refile the claim, but then I'll be able to go to court and defend myself again. And one of the Johns tells me that its likely it won't resurface. Probably more hassle than it's worth. And now I can focus on the Phillips curve and aggregate demand and exchange rate policies and why the US deficit is threatening the global economy.
The whole thing was quite interesting, actually. I got to see the legal system at work, I got to meet the Johns, and I got to see yobs. This kid who looked about 18 was also in this court today, and while I didn't hear what he was actually charged with, the final verdict was that he could be out on bail as long as he didn't approach or have contact with his ex girlfriend, could not enter the village in which she lives, and has to "live and sleep" at his mother's house until his next court date. If he violates these terms, he goes to jail. He had to ask for a reprieve on the contact with his ex thing, as they have an appointment with social services tomorrow because they need to discuss the health and safety of their children, who are currently in foster care. He wasn't sure where the meeting was, he didn't know when, and he had to be told that the 15th is, in fact, tomorrow, but he knew he had a meeting. They allowed him contact if social services was there.
You could tell he was classy. He'd worn a clean track suit to court.