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Three things struck me when I used to cover Hebburn Magistrates Court. Actually, four things. I decided that if I ever committed a crime I would flee to Scotland and commit another, bigger, crime rather than face England's medieval justice system - magistrates court was only slightly fairer than trial by combat. And I think it was while I was working as a reporter in South Tyneside that I was finally older than most of the accused. Thirdly, the number of crooks who were let off Scot-free provided they fulfilled their supposed "career dream" of joining the Army before their case was called again was noteworthy. If Hebburn Mags was anything to go by, The Light Infantry must have been composed of 80% house-breakers. The fourth thing was how many of my neighbours from north of the Tyne were caught thieving in Hebburn or Jarrow south of the river. It took me a couple of months to work out where I lived was next to a former railway goods yard and for generations whole families had made a living stealing from it. The closure of the goods yard meant the young generation had been forced further afield to pillage.


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