No attractive photos of the WomenMatta volunteers on the Helpdesk at Trafford Magistrate's Court as yet, but that doesn't mean it's not an interesting and useful thing to be doing!
Hi, my name's Rebecca and I've been volunteering on the Helpdesk at Trafford Magistrate's Court since October, attending fortnightly on a Wednesday morning. Before volunteering I knew nothing about the workings of the Court and yet, in only a few weeks, I feel I've learnt so much about what goes on there as well, I hope, as being of some help to those who've approached the Helpdesk (even to those just is search of the toilets!).
There are 5 courts at Trafford covering the full range of cases heard by Magistrates Courts, but on Wednesdays at Trafford there are a particularly large number of traffic violation cases. At first I thought this wouldn't be highly relevant to the work of WomenMatta, but in fact talking to many of the men and women who attend, it seems that alcohol abuse often has a large part to play in such cases. As a volunteer on the Helpdesk I've signposted both men and women to relevant support groups whilst encouraging women to contact WomenMatta for further help and advice.
The Magistrates at Trafford have received the WomenMatta volunteers enthusiastically. A couple of weeks ago, three magistrates asked me to take them to the Helpdesk to explain our services and last week, the WomenMatta volunteers on duty were called for over the tannoy and asked to attend one of the courts. Quite scary as Lisa and I didn't know what we'd done wrong, but actually the Magistrates in attendance just wanted to know more about WomenMatta and to thank us for our help at the Courts. What a relief!
I've sat in court during hearings, learning a lot about the legal process as well as getting a real insight into what is behind so many of the offences being tried. Time and time again, reference is made to long term alcohol and drug abuse, social deprivation and physical abuse. Whenever I've sat in court when the case of a woman is being heard, the Magistrates have always made reference to WomenMatta, encouraging the women to speak to us afterwards to see if we can help them. On one occasion, an over enthusiastic magistrate asked me whilst the court, was still in session if WomenMatta could help a male defendant. Obviously i had to decline, but in explaining why we couldn't help, it served as another great opportunity to inform all those in court about the vital work of WomenMatta.
All in all, I think the presence of the WomenMatta volunteers at Trafford Magistrates Court has been of great value to all those who pass through and I have little doubt that after only a few months the Court can't imagine how they ever managed without a Helpdesk. A huge thanks to all the WomenMatta volunteers who attend Trafford, I really believe we are doing an important job, extremely well and have set the standard for the support of women in Court in Greater Manchester.
What We Do:
WomenMATTA provide an intensive, holistic support service to women at risk of offending, women at risk of receiving custodial sentences and women who are released from custody after serving a sentence of less than 6 months.
We run a free drop in every Friday 1-4 where we provide a hot lunch, practical support (eg help with housing, benefits etc) and run a different activity each week. This is open to all women (18+) whether or not they are in the criminal justice system. The drop in is held at the Pankhurst Centre, 60-62 Nelson Street, Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester M13 9WP (in the MRI complex).
For more information please contact us on 0161 832 6544.
If you have anything you'd like to say or you would like to guest blog for us please let us know in the comments box or contact us (number above.)