Thursday, 19 August 2010

GUEST POST: Pete McManus, Office Volunteer

As a voluntary intern I had a few preconceptions about what awaited me in the constituency office. I am pleased to say, however, that this was not the case. Missing were the spin doctors, and non-existent were the great swaths of staff, public relations officers, and personal advisers. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. As a matter of fact, the running of Guy’s office is left to a dedicated team of two, not counting the current intake of voluntary helping hands.

It was, therefore, an added bonus when the preconceptions of being a volunteer intern were put to bed and we were given actual responsibility and management over a number of key tasks and events. Across the desk I share with my office manager, Jon, are facts and figures outlining the stark consequences of the proposed closing of Hexham’s magistrates, something Guy is fighting tooth and nail to prevent. The closing of the court will have a disastrous effect on the local judicial system as witnesses, families, and victims will have to travel to Newcastle to attend a sitting. This seems reasonable for a resident of Ponteland or Stannington, but imagine the extra cost, travel distance and inconvenience for a disabled person in Kielder, a pensioner in Hexham or a resident of Haltwhistle, where distance and travel time is more than doubled. Hexham is unique because of its geography, and sometimes exceptions need to be made because of unique circumstances because, as Guy put it so well, ‘an area well in excess of 1,150 square miles will have no magistrate’s court whatsoever’ (Journal, July 16th) and that is quite plainly wrong.

This is one of the reasons why Guy and his team are determined to fight to keep something that is not only vital for local justice, but a place that has been at the centre of Hexham’s history for hundreds of years. And it’s great to be part of that fight.

In this photo: Jack Gebhard, Sarah Byers, Pete McManus