Criminal courts so dramatise the human condition that they are themselves subject to endless dramatic representations. Over the years, as observer and participant, I have seen in courts something of the wide range of human capabilities and reactions. Cruelty, duplicity and wickedness in its many ingenious forms sit alongside kindness, honesty and inspiring philanthropy. Anyone watching closely will quickly sense another tension – that between the presence of the accused as a human being and the impersonality with which he is processed. As with any public institution that deals with people in extreme conditions, a degree of separation is a means of getting business done and controlling the wear and tear on staff. But no matter how familiar one is with the scene, a troubling realisation intrudes from time to time: practicalities and a web of working relations marginalise the person who should be the centre of attention. Hemmed in physically, for the most part ignored, and sanitised by the professional disinterestedness of the court, the accused becomes a two-dimensional being, his humanity suspended – paradoxically with the intention of treating him humanely.