Tuesday, February 01, 2005


I am on the rota to chair a bench on a trial tomorrow. Along with my two colleagues, there will be a qualified legal adviser, and an usher. There will be at least one, and possibly several volunteers from Witness Support (of whom one cannot speak too highly, by the way). There will be a courtroom with heat light and a security presence. There may well be witnesses, some of them scared, all of them inconvenienced.

There is about one chance in three that it will go ahead. This is expensive and frustrating - bad enough when someone is ill, but infuriating when a simple cock-up prevents the trial from proceeding. It would be naive to blame 'the system' but there is the fundamental problem of there being no penalty for failure. If the CPS screw up and forget to warn witnesses to attend (believe me, that happens!) or if a Police officer decides that his firearms course (that will get him into SO19) is more important than giving evidence against the bloke who ran over an old lady, then there is no penalty or sanction for failure.

We shall see how we get on tomorrow.

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