1960s >> 1960 >> no-666-february-1960

Coroner’s Court

The Court Room was small and unimpressive, rather like the old type of school class room, with varnished pine wood and green paint. One hears continually about officialdom being impersonal and flinty in its dealings. That was not apparent here, however. The atmosphere was kindly and unruffled, but the business was conducted with an air of efficient deliberation.


This day was one of the many normal routine sessions. No ghastly murder to attract the press, nor mysterious death of a famous personality to pack the small room with prominent names. In that room the unknown personal tragedies of our society for a brief while became picked out of the mass and enlarged as on a screen. It soon became clear that this kind of thing went on session after session, year upon year. The accidents, the suicides, the medical evidence, the autopsy reports couched in precise medical terms. made the mind reel at the variety and immensity of the social problems they revealed.


On leaving the Court Room and coming into the bustle of everyday life, one’s thoughts dwelt over and over again on what had been heard. There was the down-and-out misfit, practically unknown in life, who at death had acquired a dossier that would be the envy of a pop singer’s publicity manager. The tramp was one of those unhappy few who have somehow locked themselves away from society, defying all the meagre efforts of the welfare workers to become “rehabilitated.” Yes, meagre. After all, why should our Capitalist society spend large sums on reclaiming odd members of the working class? There are always plenty of active, healthy ones available for exploitation.


Then there was the teen-age boy and his pillion passenger girl friend out for a trial run on a new motor-bike. It took days to get the list of injuries and causes of death out of the mind. One of the lad’s friends gave evidence (he was following behind on another bike). His statements were delivered in a seemingly disinterested fashion, as though everyone expected youth to sacrifice themselves for speed because life had nothing else to offer except to “knock up a ton (100 m.p.h.) on the by-pass.”


Other cases followed. There was the small child who unthinkingly dashed into the road and was killed by a passing car. A common enough accident, so common in fact that we now almost accept it as a necessary evil. The elderly woman subject to falls, but who had nobody to watch over her in her lonely back room.


On reflection one realised that all of these personal problems were bound up with our social pattern of living. What is wrong with our society that has its children condemned to play alongside lethal metal juggernauts? That cannot look after its old ones, or find a place for its misfits? Just think about these problems that continually confront us, and observe that—no matter how varied—they are all linked to our basic social system. A society based on property, with profits, wars, poverty and privilege, will always throw up its human wrecks. The coroner’s court is only one of the many places where they are inspected.


Jack Law