Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A date with Vicki Pollard.

Today I had my first visit to a Youth Court. I was required to take a statement from a teenage girl whose friend had been charged with making intimidating phone calls to a witness in another case. The teenage girl in question has admitted that she did it, and that her friend was not involved.

I spoke with counsel and found out the dates and events I was to cover in the statement. I then had the pleasure to meet the girl. It was nice to see (I am not a snob by the way) that she had worn her best track suit for the day, and was already wearing a scowl with a Dagenham face lift (very tightly pulled back hair).

Within 20 minutes of statement taking in a small interview room, she was "too hot" and wanted to leave. I then asked her to stay in the waiting area as the Judge may call her at anytime. To this I got a dirty look and a sneer, and was totally ignored.

I followed her down and was asked "err why are you following me". I explained again that she had to stay in the waiting area and that she was here to help her friend, and that it wouldn't last much longer. Again filthy looks.

Her friend reappeared and I told her that she could not speak to her until after giving evidence. No more than 3 minutes later, I go down to find her, and she is stood talking and smoking with her friend. Reiteration of request, followed by a look that if it could have would have left a small pile of ash on the floor.

To cap off the day while giving evidence she uttered the immortal words "I ain't dun nuffin". To be honest she did do well in the witness stand, and she has been in foster care, so I can't be too harsh. I even got a thank you, plus the people skills learnt from the experience are priceless, so not that bad a day after all.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Any room at the Inn?

After much contemplation, visiting, pondering, and generally asking every Barrister which he would one they would recommend, I have come to a decision about which Inn to join.

Although not the important choice it once was, there are some considerations that needed to be mulled over such as, size of membership, number of scholarships, advocacy courses, and other student services.

So taking this in to account, and the glowing recommendations I received from all those I asked, I have chosen..........

I think the fact that they interview everyone who applies for a scholarship, coupled with it having, I am told, an excellent advocacy program, was what swung it for me. Looking forward to my first dining night and meeting other members.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

And the winner for best supporting actor is......

We received a note from the jury while they were deciding the verdict in the sexual assault case that I am clerking. They asked if they could have the transcript of the video interview of the complainant. Obviously this was not allowed, so the Judge told them that if they said which part of the evidence they wanted to hear, he would read it out to them.
The evidence concerned the description given by the 11 year old girl of her attacker. The jury went out and Counsel went though the transcript and identified the pages. The jury called back in and the Judge then said,

"I will read to you the interview, and from my voice you should be able to recognise whether it is the police officer or the 11 year old girl speaking".

For a split second I had a vision of the judge putting on the high pitched voice of a small girl and let out an involuntary snigger. This was not the case but he did put some real feeling and drama in to his performance. He had obviously missed his true calling.

Unfortunately the client was found guilty by a majority of 10-2 so not a particularly happy ending for him. However I have been told by counsel to apply for a mini pupillage at her chambers, as she thinks that I would gain a lot from it. This is a top mixed criminal and civil law set with a heavy leaning towards human rights issues, so some good news for me.

Sadly next week will be my last with the solicitors firm as the following week is a mini pupillage, and then back to uni. Till my next post, thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

An unfortunate attack of the giggles.

As you may have seen in my previous blog I am currently clerking on a sexual assault case. The defendant is a Jamaican gentleman who has a very strong accent. This made his evidence in chief and cross examination rather difficult.

The unfortunate case of the giggles was brought on by the prosecution asking the defendant whether he has said "pussy clot" to the victim as she walked past. The prosecuting barrister is very well spoken, and probably says he lives in a "hice" rather than a house. Every time he said the word pussy a small snigger crept from the jury's direction.

According to the defendant this is a derogatory term used by Jamaicans to mean something akin to "idiot" and used in banter. The prosecution however were determined to get him to admit that he was using it as a slang for a vagina, repeating pussy is vagina over and over again. Cue even louder giggles.

To this the defendant replied "I would never use that word to refer to a woman's pom pom, that would be disrespectful". I think the mention of pom pom sent them over the edge. Of the 12 jurors all were laughing and a good few were either biting their fists trying not to, and others were actually crying. The court had to rise for a five minute break to compose itself.

Thankfully this morning the Judge was able to produce a slang dictionary to enlighten us what it meant. It is a derogatory term, so the defendant was right.

On a more somber note, I would like to echo the sentiments of others concerning the retirement of L2B/The Pupil from the world of blogging, but like all the others wish her the best of luck in pupillage and beyond.

In other news I have also chosen which Inn to join. More on that later.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

When 9:30 actually means 12:30?!?!

"Right BOB*, two pleas for you to deal with this morning. Should be simple, ones in custody and due in court at 9:30, and the other in the same court at 10". An easy £25 and extra experience thought I.

Ha, how wrong I was. I of course didn't factor in the trusty prison service and their own brand of time management. The client in question suffers from asthma and claustrophobia, so could not be transported in the usual prison van, commonly known as a "sweat box", so instead had to be brought by taxi to court.

You would expect the prison service to know this and have everything in place. Unfortunately they did not and the morning was spent with counsel and I repeatedly going up and down from the custody area to be told again that he had not arrived. This played havoc with trying to clerk the other case, but I managed.

It got to lunchtime and we then had to wait until 2 o'clock to go down and speak to the client who had finally arrived. However after all this ridiculousness the client did get a touch and only got a very small sentence considering the crime, and there is also the bonus of getting a full days money as well.

This weekend I moved my stuff into the house which will probably be my home for the next 2 years, and for the next two weeks I have a sexual assault trial to clerk, so that should be very interesting. Then the first week of September I have a mini pupillage with a chambers in London that specialises in Family and Landlord and Tenant/Housing/Land Law to look forward to.

* Some people have referred to me as BOB (Bar or Bust) so I thought I would try it out for size. If you want to leave a comment please feel free.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More to follow...

After a disappointing week of absolutely no work last week I have the last day of a trial to clerk tomorrow and a PCMH on Thursday.

I have also been informed that there are trials available next week from Monday, so hopefully another interesting experience to follow. Watch this space.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Work Experience (2)

Pro bono. We all know that it is something that we should get involved in, but I didn't really like the sound of the opportunities that the Law soc at my uni were involved in. Thankfully there is a separate volunteering society at the university which has a website with details of all volunteering opportunities.

While browsing I came across a charity looking for "Housing Repossession Representatives". The description said that it required people to represent home owners at the county court during repossession hearings. So this gave me an opportunity to not only do something that would help other people (and make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside), but also the chance to do real advocacy in front of a district Judge.

After going for an interview and being accepted I was initially asked to do some office work every week collating information on which local authority area each home owner was from, and which lender the mortgage was with. Fairly mundane but useful info for the charity and sharpened the research skills trying to find out with local authority was concerned.

About a month later I was able to go to the court and observe the other volunteers in conference with the clients, who your first contact with is on the day in most cases, and with the lenders solicitor. Usually an agreement can be reached which makes the hearings fairly straight forward, but sometimes this is not possible so it needs to be thrashed out in front of the Judge.

The next time at court I was there as the only volunteer with the solicitor who works with the charity. A lot of the cases I took the details and handed them over to the solicitor as they became a bit too complicated, but I was able to see two cases through to completion.

Both times I was able to come to an agreement with the lenders solicitor, but I still had to go in front of the Judge and explain the circumstances my clients had found themselves in and that they too believed this to be a fair solution. So nothing spectacular advocacy wise, but my first small step to actually representing people in real life legal situations. I am looking forward to my first case where I have to argue for the solution we want, although I am sure it will be extremely frightening and exhilarating in equal parts.

I hope to volunteer with the Free Representation Unit (FRU) in the future as well. The important thing is that I'm helping people as well as honing my skills and boosting the CV. Hope this has been helpful, and as always comments are much appreciated.

Monday, August 6, 2007

2-1 to the Courts.

Firstly my apologies for not blogging for a while, I have been pretty busy. Not a great excuse but it's the only I have.

The heading of this post refers to the three clients I have recently been involved with (in a purely legal sense of course). The trial on which I clerked last week ended in a guilty verdict for the counts of ABH and GBH. The length of sentence will depend on the pre-sentencing report which is being prepared.

On Thursday morning I was asked to go to Snaresbrook Crown Court to meet a client who was being produced on warrant, because of a failure to turn up to court on a previous date. Other than this I had no idea whatsoever why he was at court. With the barrister also being involved in three other cases I had to go down to the cells alone, fill in the legal aid forms with the client, and take instructions.

It turned out that the client was here for breaching his 18 month probation order he had been given for assaulting his girlfriend, and possessing two cannabis plants. Having established this I asked him what his instructions were, obviously informing him that the judge could re-sentence him for the original offences, or give him another chance with probation. The client looked at me and said,

"Well to tell you the truth I'm sick of probation so I would rather get a couple of months imprisonment, come out half way through and have it over done with".

Obviously I was a little shocked as I personally would do all I could to avoid going to prison, but looking at this client's form, doing a bit of bird would by like water off a duck's back (no pun intended). I informed the barrister of this, he spoke to the client, and agreed. He ended up in real terms with a two and a half month sentence. So that was two people in as many days who I had shook hands with before they were whisked off by the prison van.

On the Friday however I had the pleasure of going back to Croydon to clerk for the rape defendant (see previous post), because the CPS have decided not to go for a re-trial. I have never seen a man look so different in the space of a week. After five minutes in court for the Judge to enter a verdict of not guilty, I was able to shake the hand of a man who after a year has his life back. I know that some people that read this will say what about the alleged victim, and when will she get her life back, but I truly believe that to have found this man guilty would have imprisoned an innocent man. Obviously I welcome any comments to discuss this.

Well there is all of last weeks legal shenanigans, this weekend I went and helped my girlfriend move in to the house which will be our home for the next two years of undergraduate study. I am waiting to see if I will be required for work this week.

I also intend to post about joining an Inn (or deciding which one), and I also have a mini-pupillage to look forward to in the first week of September. Lastly thanks to all of the people who have added me to their blog links, please have a read of their blogs, which can be found in my links.