“What do you have on your porridge?” The police family liaison officer inquired, his uniform carefully pressed and his black shoes buffed to a high shine. The three of us waited in the foyer of the crown court for the Dartmoor based judge, who learns French and wears a flat cap, to start proceedings.
It was the sentencing of the teenage boy racer found guilty of death by dangerous driving. He killed his girlfriend when the car he was driving left the road, flipped over and smashed into a tree. Floral tributes swamped the spot near the blind bend and other parents, who had also suffered losses there, campaigned for speed cameras and lamented the loss of another young life.
Two of us sat on the bright green chairs and the FLO stood up. The slightly older sergeant talked animatedly about his position as a firearms officer and the impossible fitness test that saw him pitted against much younger recruits. He had been at the scene of the accident when the driver shouted “I think I’ve killed my girlfriend”. Wrapped up in a high visibility coat and gloves, he had been at the same spot more than a year later when the jury visited the crash site.
“So what do you have on your porridge?” The conversation brought about a light hearted relief from the reality of the situation and once again we were on the same team. “Rice milk,” I laughed. A few moments later the the teenagers name was read out and we hurriedly gathered our professions about us and walked into court room one.