Saturday, August 01, 2009

It's A Lonely Place

There are few places more lonely than the witness box, as you stand there under the stern gaze of the Bench, facing cross-examination by a barrister who knows his job.
This week we saw an experienced police officer being expertly dismantled by the defence brief. The officer was completely at sea - and it wasn't his fault.
The case is too fresh to go into any detail, but the basic problem was that the defendant was facing the wrong (not specially serious) charge, and the PC had no way of knowing that. Seemingly-irrelevant questions that the officer answered frankly gave the defence all the ammunition that they needed for a successful submission of no case to answer. At the end of cross-examination the prosecutor re-examined, as was his right, and we could sense him desperately trying to get the 'right' answer out of the officer without, of course, leading him. In the end he looked at the bench and said "I'm not going to get the answer I want, sir. I shall leave it there". Game over.
There are now so many overlapping laws that the police and the CPS simply became confused by this case. The defendant was guilty beyond a doubt - but not of the offence he had been charged with. I feel a bit sorry for the officer, because he left the court straight after giving his evidence and probably has no idea what the questioning was about, and why the prosecutor threw his hand in.

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