Sunday, 24 June 2012

More fun with Eddie

Firstly, apologies for not updating in a week, no excuses other than laziness and interview preparation.

Secondly, the return of Eddie. As I said in my last post, on Monday I popped down to Kingston Crown Court to spend another day with the big man himself.

From the start Eddie promised me a boring, and short day, he had two hearings: a bail app and a sentence. In both cases he was acting for the Crown.

The bail app was due to be held at 10am, and the sentence at 11.30. All over and done with by 1pm, and then a quick lunch and a good chat.

Things never quite work out. The defence barrister in the bail app was suffering a family crisis and couldn't get to court before 11. The judge hearing the bail app was due to continue a part-heard trial as soon as the bail app was over. The defendant in the bail app had previously been refused bail because he lived too close to the complainant, and had spent the last few weeks in prison waiting for his family to find somewhere else for him to stay. If they didn't have the bail app, the defendant would remain in prison. Eddie's job? Despite acting for the Crown, to ask the judge to take a mid-morning break from his trial once the defence barrister turned up, as it would be in the interests of justice to hear a bail application for the defendant - even though it was the Crown's position that (irrespective of the address) bail should not be granted.

The judge granted the adjournment.

We now had to wait, both for the other barrister to turn up and for Eddie's other matter (the sentence) to be called on.

Can you guess what happened next? That's right. The other barrister turned up at 11.30. Eddie was called into the sentence and the bail app at the same time. Eek,

Luckily, the clerk in the sentencing court was understanding, called on another matter and gave Eddie breathing space to get the bail app out of the way. The bail app was simple enough, a new address was suggested, the owner of the property answered some questions from the judge, and even before Eddie had said anything, bail was granted.

So, off to the sentencing - a simple matter, a domestic burglary, two defendants caught leaving the front door of the property. Actually, no. Not simple.

Both defendants were represented by the same solicitors, and the solicitors had only instructed one barrister to represent both of them. Their previous instructions had highlighted no conflicts, so joint instruction seemed appropriate.

The problem, however, was that the pre-sentence reports had not been provided until the morning of the hearing, and they created a problem: for one of the defendants it recommended a community order, for the other, 18 months imprisonment. Also, it recommended a psychiatric report for one of the defendants (the one for whom imprisonment was recommended). Why the vast disparity in recommendations? One defendant had dozens of previous convictions, the other was of otherwise good character.

The PSRs also exposed a conflict between the two: although the defendants had made bare, guilty pleas, in their PSRs they blamed each other for the robberies. They both accepted that they were there, but both also said it was NOT a joint enterprise and that they led astray by the other. Thus, their barrister could not effectively mitigate for either of them.

A tricky situation.

The barrister was about to declare himself embarrassed and withdraw from the case completely, but Eddie offered him another way out. Eddie would request an adjournment to ensure the psychiatric report could be carried out, and the defence barrister could then sort out the conflict away from the eyes of the court.

Hooray for Eddie.

We were still out of court by 12.15, but it had been a much crazier morning than Eddie had been expecting. I learned a big lesson: even the most minor mention/hearing can cause problems.

Eddie and I headed into Kingston for our lunch, and had a good chat setting the world to rights. He even offered to buy me lunch, but knowing that Criminal Barristers live on 50p a day I just couldn't bring myself to accept.

No comments:

Post a Comment