Court is where you go when you get caught. It's a temple of justice, a tragic theatre, a circus, a long-running soap and a revolving door. Victoria Bean spent a year in Horseferry Road Magistrate's Court, recording in verse the high-drama and low-comedy of the English justice system. Caught is a wholly unique take on everyday life in a busy courtroom and its cast of thieves, drunks, kerb-crawlers and dealers who come before the bench each day in despair, bewilderment and indifference. All human life is here - the strong and the weak, the hopeless and hapless, the users and losers, the innocent and the guilty, the banged-up and the free.

Sample Poems


The palette of this court is
grass stain green
menthol green
sixties green &
glass edge green.


Is that the jangle of jailer's keys
or handcuffs on the man 
who nicked the bottle of wine 
from an Iceland down the road?


Stand up please.

We can't send you to jail 
just because you're hungry 
and it's cold outside,
however, you will stay in custody
until you've had your lunch.

In debt

The judge says you can't go on owing 
this sum for the rest of your life.

When did you last work?  '95' she says in a whisper.

She's even lost her voice.

Holloway's your holiday

Tall, tangles and a cough.

Pretty once, still only eighteen, 
is anyone looking after you?

You need somewhere to stay 
I sentence you to 
seven days of food and sleep.

Promised land

I am off the drugs
oh yes, 
I am off the drugs.

Can I say something else?

He says
I wish to say a few things.

The judge says it's usually unwise.

Fifteen years on crack

Beautiful boy
cheekbones sculpted by
sweet pink crystals still dissolving 
the plump padding of his youth.

He uses car stereos as currency
but wants a second chance 
for the last time,
for the hundredth time.

Just the two of us

He's just been released 
today, yes, today, he says 
into his mobile phone 
in the public gallery,

and he's in court again
today, yes, today, he says 
before asking his friend 
if he's got any methadone. 

So I'm free now, yeah?

Matted hair 
slipping tracksuit; 
itchy blood.

Diamorphine diamond 
they're not going to 
punish you today.


Muie and Mosh in the public gallery
with their post code surnames 
gouged and scrawled
in vandals' Braille

a universal hand writes 
we were here, we were here, we were here.
and names get carved in sharp angled letters 
because cursive font is tricky

where the wood grain won't give.


'Incisive, witty, compassionate and captivating, Victoria Bean's poems are short, sharp shocks that capture the human face of crime and punishment in London's courts. A gem'

David Jenkins

'Victoria Bean's poetry fuses the fact of the misdone act with the conviction of the spoken word, showing us that it's not what actually happens that counts but how we re-imagine our lives in a language of our own. This is a first collection that will still be read long after the first offences have blown over.'

Chris McCabe

'This is a remarkable book, breathtaking in its artistry and its clarity.'

Richard Price

'an unusual and entertaining collection.'