It is my first case. I am defending two young men accused of assault. Suddenly their interests diverge. What do I do?by Alex McBride / June 19, 2005 / Leave a comment
Billy Kilcooley followed the usher into the provincial courtroom. His loose-fitting suit could not hide his twitchiness. His eyes darted about, trying to take everything in, not because he was unfamiliar with courts but because he was nervous and excited. His body was popping with expectation.
The courtroom is in a dying town with one street and an empty arcade. I’ll call this town, protruding into the Irish sea, the hunchback of Pembrokeshire.
Billy Kilcooley is the main complainant – I hesitate to use the word “victim” – in a trial of actual bodily harm. His allegation is that while he was walking to a club with his sister and a couple of friends, he was accosted by a group of young men. They taunted and then set about him, kicking him in the face, legs and ribs. One man, Billy claims, stamped on his head.
There are four defendants: Matty, Tam, Maureen and Biff, two of whom are relying on me to keep them out of jail. My colleague, Liam is representing the other two. They all sit in a small, sealed dock. High medieval arrow slits in the glass let the air circulate and give me the chance to whisper conspiratorially to them. One thing is clear: I care more about the outcome than they do. Their liberty is at stake but it is my ego. Whatever happens, they will eventually get out; my ego may never recover.
My boys – this is the understood term among criminal practitioners, as in “my boy did this,” “my girl said that” – are in more trouble then Liam’s. Matty and Tam, barely 20, are alleged to be Billy’s principal attackers. It is they who are said to have kicked him in the face. Billy has picked out Tam as the one who stamped on his head.
Earlier, in the pre-trial conference, these two country boys told me that they shared the same 16-year-old girl. Tam was going out with her and Matty, as he put it, was giving her one on the side. She became pregnant. No one knows who the father is. They remain best of friends. I…