As a criminal barrister providing a comprehensive service to my clients, it is important that I am ready to provide fashion suggestionsby Alex McBride / March 22, 2006 / Leave a comment
“Take off your coat,” I whispered. She eased it off her shoulders without protest. She looked marvellous. Her throat was hidden by a beige polo neck, over which she wore a V-neck sweater with horizontal coloured stripes. Her beige pleated skirt reached unrevealingly to her ankles. In a stroke of genius, her hair was set fast in a demi-glace of L’Oréal, in the style of a Romford lady shopper. This woman was the picture of an African matron: respectable, sombre—and law-abiding. Accused of attempting to open a bank account with a dodgy driving licence, when she left the dock to take the stand, the effect on the magistrates was all too apparent. For me, her lawyer, her dress sense was a delight; she hadn’t even given evidence yet and she was already playing a blinder.
The prosecution’s case was that she had entered a bank with another woman and handed the dodgy licence, which had my African matron’s name, address and photo on it, to a teller as proof of identity. Her defence was that it wasn’t she who had come into the bank; she’d been a victim of identity theft.
The teller, a young white woman, was the prosecution’s main witness. She described the woman with the licence as between 25 and 30 and wearing a see-through green top which revealed a black bra. She described her as “brassy” and claimed she “showed a bit of leg.” This enabled me to make the most of the fact that my client wasn’t 25 to 30 years old but 47. It helped to neutralise the teller’s insistence that the woman who handed over the driver’s licence was the woman whose picture appeared on it.
Appearance counts. It is the little things that can influence which way a tribunal will cleave when it decides on someone’s guilt, or considers what sentence to pass. As a criminal barrister providing a comprehensive service, it is important for me to be ready with a fashion suggestion. Your standard Saturday night glass-in-the-face fight client will almost always insist on a suit. But it is not the sort of suit the judge will be wearing. It will be sharp and accompanied by a gold Windsor-knotted tie. To the jury he’ll look like a footballer, which is probably just the sort of image he wants to convey. But many jurors will assume that footballer lookalikes are drunken…