The case against my client is overwhelming, but he refuses to plead guilty. Any questions that I ask in court are just going to make things worseby Alex McBride / August 27, 2006 / Leave a comment
Time was running out for Mr Ng and he was still only half awake. The car- towers had arrived on the stroke of 8.30. He looked out the window to see two men attaching the straps to the wheels of his car. Why were they always picking on him? Fifteen floors up and the lift wasn’t working. Nothing was going right. He pulled on some tracksuit bottoms and raced down. Out in the street the situation was critical. His car was already on the truck. He protested angrily, explaining that he lived in the flats, but his lack of English frustrated him. The car-towers told him that he needed a permit to park. Tiring of flimflam, Mr Ng opted for force majeure and things were set for mayhem.
Mr Ng and I sat outside the court, the Vietnamese interpreter wedged between us, as I skimmed the case papers; it was clear he had no case and I advised him to plead guilty. He’d get credit for going guilty, I told him. It was a poor bluff. Although he would get a stiffer sentence if the case went to trial, it wasn’t going to make much difference. Section 4 of the Public Order Act (threatening unlawful violence) is an imprisonable offence with a six-month maximum, but in practice it rarely leads to custody. The real reason for my advice was that the case was so overwhelming that I didn’t have any questions to ask. Barristers ask questions to make points, but if you have no point to make, any question you ask might just make things worse.
The main witness, Mr Khan, a devout Muslim with a handsome beard, arrived wearing his fluorescent car-tower’s coat. He outlined the events. After the initial exchange, he claimed Mr Ng ran to the truck’s lifting-gear controls to steer his car on to the ground. Mr Ng’s instructions to me were limited, but he insisted he hadn’t touched the lifting-gear.
Me: He didn’t go near those controls, did he?
Mr Khan: Yes, he did.
Me: The car didn’t move.
Mr Khan: That’s true.
Me: So he can’t have touched the controls then?
Mr Khan: He had a wild look in his eyes. I switched off the controls as a precaution.
The judge: That was quick thinking, Mr Khan.
Mr Khan: Thank you, madam.
Thwarted by Mr Khan, Mr Ng leapt up on to the…