Wednesday, April 08, 2015
How Much Did That Cost?
(From Bystander N)
I recently spent time in a crown court’s public gallery. I’m used to being on the bench with a judge or recorder, but not elsewhere in the court room.
My first two impressions were not favourable. Much of the seating used by the advocates was ripped or badly worn and held together with masking tape. The proceedings started about forty minutes late mainly because the prosecutor needed time to copy a summary for the jurors. Why, I asked myself, wasn’t this done before the start of the trial?
The offence was sexual assault and definitely at the lower end of the scale. A hand was alleged to have cupped a buttock, over clothing. I was there on day two and heard that when the alleged victim gave evidence she said she hadn’t felt anything and hadn’t known an offence had taken place. A friend who was with her said she had seen it. I heard the defendant being examined and cross examined. No doubt the judge, in summing up, would have told the jury that his having no previous made him more believable than otherwise.
To give just a little of the background the defendant said the incident started when a small group of teenagers on his bus seemed to him to be talking about him and laughing at him. He told them to behave themselves. Based on his evidence, the CC TV from which I could not see any offence committed, and what I heard of what the other witnesses had said I felt the prosecution had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. I came away with a question though.
I knew by lunch on day two that there were three civilian prosecution witnesses, the defendant and the officer in the case who I also heard give evidence. There were some agreed statements. The officer’s evidence left questions in my mind over the way they had dealt with it, but I digress. I worked out that if held in my court the trial should have been set for a day. I would be surprised if a magistrates’ court had declined jurisdiction and it was more likely that the defendant, or rather his solicitor, had opted for crown court.
In those august surroundings, three days had been allocated. What did that cost, whoever ended up paying, compared with what it would have cost in my court? No wonder the justice system is short of money.