The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Really Tough Decision

In a murder trial currently taking place, a witness has refused to give evidence. Here is the BBC report.
This case is sub judice, so I shall keep my remarks general, and I shall be merciless with any comments that even approach the particular.
Way down on the lower rungs of the judicial ladder there are many of us who are familiar with the reluctant witness (most often in Domestic Violence cases) who declines, for whatever reason, to testify, even when , as happened to colleagues of mine this week, they have been compelled to attend by a witness summons, and are actually in the witness suite in the court. If the witness remains adamant, then there is nothing the court can realistically do - after all it would be monstrous to punish a victim of assault for refusal to talk about it, thus making her (and it usually is a her) a victim twice over.
There are scores of reasons why someone refuses to give evidence, from loyalty to family or friends all the way up to the terror of becoming branded as a grass, or even real fear of violent retribution.
So I sympathise with the trial judge in the current case, and I am quietly relieved that it is he not I who has to deal with a refusenik witness.