It's my first jury trial and I am prosecuting a crack dealer. My strongest piece of evidence has just been disallowed. So how can I prove that the defendant is lying?by Alex McBride / August 31, 2008 / Leave a comment
Fresh-faced baby barristers nervously watched the junior clerk laying out the briefs on the postroom shelf. That shelf meant everything—it was our shelf of dreams. How we wished that we, like the grandest silks, could be prosecuting celebrity murderers or defending psychopaths. In fact, we’d settle for anything better than our reality of suburban magistrates’ courts and petty crime.
“Please let it not be Harlow youth court,” I prayed. You had to run the gauntlet there, past the defendants and their families gobbing by the entrance. No one got through unscathed. By 6.30pm, I was the only one without a brief and reconciled to Harlow. Then a folder arrived, tied in white ribbon. Defence briefs come in pink ribbon.
“Trial at Southwark crown court, sir. Prosecuting,” said the clerk.
My first jury trial—and I was prosecuting. I hadn’t ever prosecuted before.
It all began when local crack dealers realised that Hackney lay unprotected between five and six in the morning, as the day shift took over from the night shift at Shoreditch police station. For that whole hour, they were able to do a handsome trade in early bird specials.
Two young coppers eventually spotted the chink in the Met’s armour. One morning they drew up alongside the dealers in an unmarked car. No one twigged they were police until they were out of the car and, as required by law, putting on their police caps.
The first dealer ran in lengthening strides down the road; the second swallowed his stash; the third, Ollie, never top of the class, started to leg it, tossing his drugs towards a shuttered shop as he ran. One of the officers spotted it. “What’s in that bag you threw?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” said Ollie.
Bad answer. “Verbals,” as they’re called, can be very powerful evidence since they come straight from the defendant’s mouth. The correct response would have been either “What bag?” or to say nothing at all. By admitting knowledge of the bag, it was only a small step for a jury to find that Ollie knew what was inside it—crack—making him guilty of a serious offence and liable for a long sentence.
The day after receiving my brief, I sat in court trying to look like an old hand. But my opponent could spot a newbie.
“You’re sitting on the wrong side of the court, virgin.” Having humiliated me,…