Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Brief History of Times

As I expected, when I wrote this a few posts ago:-
it became clear that we would not be able to finish it, even if we pushed the end time beyond the ideal of 4.30 to 5 p.m.
a few people chipped in to suggest that courts are prone to skiving off early whenever they get a chance.
Of course it isn't that simple, as the Government will shortly find out if the daft idea of sitting courts from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ever gets a trial. The official advice, from the Lord Chief Justice a few years ago is that courts should not 'normally' sit after 4.30 pm. Here are a few reasons for that advice:-
Defendants are entitled to have their case heard by a bench or a jury that is alert, rather than nodding off or daydreaming. Listening to hours of evidence is pretty tiring, believe me, and even though I always give everyone a break for a cup of tea and a wee every couple of hours, by late afternoon everyone has had enough. Witnesses have to be considered, and they may have child care or other commitments. Court staff such as the clerks and ushers need to finish at a sensible time, and where someone is in custody the officers in the cells have to get their charges on to the prison vans and away into London's traffic.
In heavyweight trials in the higher courts it is quite usual for the judge to go very easy on the jury, and sit from say 10.30 a.m. to 2 p.m. to allow its members time to absorb the mass of detail they will have heard. It's easy to mock this, but a court isn't a business, and when you are holding someone's future in your hands it is vital to be fair, even at the expense of 'efficiency' as the Government sees it.

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