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.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Elementary Error

There is a certain type of person that we sometimes see in the dock or in the witness box who speaks and behaves as if participating in a pub argument about football, and has no idea of the measured and structured ebb and flow of questions that we expect to see in court. Questions elicit rhetorical questions in reply, leaving the chairman to interject and explain that the witness is there to answer questions, not ask them. When challenged, we sometimes hear them offer to get on to their mate and get him down to the court, when he will put matters straight. No chance; he has been on bail for weeks awaiting trial, and he had plenty of time to get in all the witnesses he wanted - in his arrogance he thinks he can bluster his way through the trial as he blusters his way through life. We dealt with one such a few weeks ago; he was being cross examined in connection with an alleged assault, and it soon came out that he did not like being challenged on anything. He wasn't much of a listener either, as his defence solicitor had already tried to tell him just to answer the questions. The prosecutor could see that he was getting wound up, and that she was getting on top of him. In response to one question he said: "Look, It's all right for you, I'm not used to all this, being here in court". The prosecutor stopped, and I was already halfway to my feet to lead the bench out, when she asked for time to speak to the clerk.
At that moment I had realised that he had previous, and that the prosecutor was going to apply to put it in, since he had claimed to be unaccustomed to court (as it happened she did not use it, because it was quite old, but we saw it all after convicting him anyway). If you claim to be of good character when you are not, or if you attack the other side's character you 'lose your shield' and have to be ready to see your own record put before the court. As I have said before, cross examination in the hands of a skilful lawyer is a very powerful tool, and sometimes the light just snaps on and the bench or jury can clearly discern the truth.