Monday - WednesdayThe week began with a trial for violent disorder at the Old Bailey. The trial was scheduled to last 4-days for reasons unknown to me since it was really a two-day case. But, as these things tend to do the trial managed to run far longer than it should have done.
The major problem was that the defendant is deaf and requires the assistance of speech-to-text technology. This sounds much grander than it is. Two stenographers take turns to type what is being said in court and that appears on the defendant's screen so he can follow proceedings. For some reason, only one of the stenographers had a wireless keyboard while the other had only a very short wire. They couldn't sit in the dock because then they couldn't hear what was being said. Nor could they sit at the back of the court because they also could not hear. The judge was unwilling to allow the defendant (who was in any case on bail) to leave the dock. That little conundrum took up the entire morning of the first day.
We had further similar delays, which all made for one unhappy judgey.
I think the point at which the judge really got angry was when I demanded he re-open the evidence after both sides had made closing speeches. You see, I had agreed an admission about the fate of some money. It was information only within the knowledge of the police and not something I would expect my client to be able to contradict. However, it emerged subsequently that the admission was wrong and I had been misled. The judge had a minor fit and refused to allow the admissions to be corrected. I sat down mumbling about an appeal, at which point the prosecutor kindly joined me in calling for the admissions to be edited. Judgey was nonetheless unmoved. Eventually he begrudgingly accepted that I could make an application to re-open the evidence, which I did saying I wished to call the police officer as a defence witness. At that point his Judgeliness gave in and allowed us to just amend the admissions. A good 30 minutes was wasted in this way and put the summing up back to after lunch.
The trial ended with the defendant convicted. Not a great surprise given the overwhelming evidence. He had offered to plead guilty a couple of times through the case but had always changed his mind after discussing it with his mum.
The first case I dealt with late on Wednesday evening was a lady who had been accused of cultivating cannabis. She was interviewed and bailed to return next month.
ThursdayOn Thursday I was expecting to deal with a death by dangerous driving case for Biker Defence Solicitors in south London. However, the police notified me late on Wednesday that it was to be a re-bail, so I was free to deal with the two remaining police station cases from my duty the previous evening.
I got to the police station for 10.30am for the first case was an ABH in which a woman was accused of causing ABH to a man and simultaneously assaulting a second man and a woman. For the first time I can recall in my career I had serious concerns about whether this lady understood the caution. I spoke to her immediately before the interview, which was about 40 minutes after our first consultation, and she did not appear to remember what we had discussed! Nonetheless, we managed to get through the "no comment" interview without a hitch and my notes are marked that I do not think she understood the caution just in case I am ever called to give evidence on the point.
My second case was a far more complicated fraud in which tens (possibly thousands) of pounds worth of goods had been fraudulently purchased using false documents, stolen credit cards, etc. The final interview in that case finished around 10pm and the suspect was bailed to return.
FridayLast year I swapped a couple of court duties with other solicitors. It was now my turn to cover one of their court duties. I spent the day at Ealing Magistrates' Court where I dealt with three case. The first, a drink driver, received a short ban and very small fine given the circumstances of the offence were aggravated by a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre of a marked police van at speed in the face of on-coming traffic.
The second case is the sort of thing that makes me quite angry. A lady was accused of failing to notify the local authority of a change of circumstances - basically this is benefit fraud. She was claiming housing benefit and is still entitled to housing benefit, as evidenced by the council still housing her, so I am not sure how real a fraud this is! She had been summonsed to court last week but failed to attend. The authority requested a warrant for her arrest, which is how she came to be at Ealing Mags. The thing that makes me angry is that the authority sent the summons to her old address, knowing she had moved - they know because they re-housed her themselves! They then failed to tell the court about their own error and asked for her to be arrested. She is somebody who has never been in trouble but was arrested and held in the cells over night for no good reason. The local authority couldn't even be bothered to send anybody to court for this hearing. She was released on bail.
The final case was an assault in which the "victim" states no assault took place but somebody else insists it did happen. Client appears in custody as he had failed to attend the last hearing. The reason he failed to attend was they the police bailed him to a day the court wasn't sitting. The CPS accepted this and no Bail Act offence was put to him. A trial fixed with the "victim" to appear as a defence witness.
SaturdayBack on duty to cover a local police station from 7am - 3pm. Spent the day sitting about waiting for the phone to ring while my girlfriend and son went house-hunting.
In the end I received no calls.