Essex

From Tina our local representative and also one of our Trustees.

This month, we get an insight into Gaynor Sanderson’s experience visiting Chelmsford County Court.

I go to Chelmsford County and Family Court with Isabell, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, at 930am once a week. It is a civil court, not a criminal court, where adoption, family, domestic violence, financial and housing matters are heard (amongst other things).

My routine is to quickly obtain a security pass from the office and then go up to the second floor where I knock on two lady judges’ doors to have a quick chat as they stroke Isabell. It was indeed one of the lady judge’s idea to introduce therapy dogs to the legal environment. She is a dog lover and felt that having visiting court dogs would be a positive experience for all concerned.

I then proceed to the Court waiting rooms on two floors. The reaction of the public when we walk in is varied! Surprise, delight, and interest are the emotions we mainly see. Rarely indifference as most people have pets at home and we are a nation of animal lovers! 

A dog is a great ice breaker so I approach people and say, ‘would you like to meet the Court therapy dog Isabell?’ This is a welcome distraction in their wait. They are often there for a long time, awaiting an important decision in a formal setting. Stroking a dog and talking about their own pets is a diversion from more serious matters at hand.

I tell them it was a judge’s idea to introduce court dogs and that does make the judiciary seem more human. Many people tell me having a dog in the waiting room has helped, even the legal advocates (solicitors etc), who can also be nervous! It is generally thought a Court dog is an excellent concept.

My last stop is to the admin offices where the Court staff have a stroke. We get a warm welcome from most; especially the Court ushers. The whole visit lasts less than an hour.

I always find the Court visit an uplifting experience and feel that Isabell has made somebody

Thanks Gaynor. If anyone would like to volunteer for next month’s edition, please let me know.