Call me Russ L

And Justice For… Some.

Posted in Modern Living by Russ L on 7 January, 2006

Originally posted on 28/12/4.

Firstly, I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas.

For the two weeks before Christmas I was on jury service, which was very interesting indeed (not to mention a break from work). Obviously I can’t pass on any details about the actual trials I sat on, but there are a few more general observations that I may as well subject you to here.

· First and foremost, a warning to anyone else who gets summoned for it – TAKE THINGS TO DO. It tells you this on the letters you get, but I really can’t stress the matter enough. If you’re not on a trial, you basically have to sit in the jury waiting room, and… that’s it. Sit there. There are T.V. sets on, there are some board games and things (pieces missing, inevitably) and a pool table, but you could be there for a long time. Some people spend their whole fortnight without getting a single trial. Take a book, take several books, take any paperwork you have to do or any letters you want to write or anything like that. I was fortunate – I had three trials over the course of my two weeks and never spent more than half a day unoccupied, and I was still bored senseless at times.

· I got to be the foreman on one of them!

· Beforehand I was worried about my own ability to keep my mind on the trials, as I have the attention span of a goldfish swimming in a bowl of Sunny Delight. I really was concerned that my attention would drift to thinking “That supporting solicitor is quite hot,” or to wondering what the next book I’d buy would be, or to start fantasy-booking the next six months of NJPW in my head, or whatever else. In the event I did well and concentrated, and I am actually quite proud of myself.

· One always assumes that the psychological warfare/war of nerves aspects of courtrooms that you read in novels and see in books wouldn’t actually exist in real life, but I can now honestly say they do. I can’t really explain that too well without talking specifically about some of the barristers that I encountered, but they know exactly when to start putting pressure on witnesses with more intense questioning, exactly when to ease off etc. to get what they want. The semantic games of manipulating words occur too, and although the judges tend to be wise to them and tell the barristers to knock it off of when they’re pushing their luck, they certainly try. I’m not sure whether or not this helps justice be done, but it does make things more interesting and even (dare I say it?) more entertaining.

· Whenever the judge and barristers need to wrangle over a point of law, the jury is sent out of the court. Now, I realise this is necessary – our concern is only with the facts, not with the law, and hearing anything that may (for whatever reason) cause anyone on the jury to apply the latter in any way other than exactly as the judge decrees in his summing up would obviously be bad – but it is a bit of a shame, as I personally would have found listening to those arguments very interesting. My ex was doing (well, still is doing) a law degree at university, and I always found helping her revise (or even just reading bits from her law books to kill time) absolutely fascinating. I do intend (at some point – I acknowledge this may well be pure over-the-hills-and-far-away talk) to go to university at some point, and Law was something I always considered as a possibility. After all of this I think I’ve become even more interested in the possibility.

Just a few thoughts there, anyway. I’m not really fussed about not being able to discuss the trials, but I am a bit disappointed about not being able to share a few things about the characters of the barristers and some of my fellow jurors. It’d be a bit naughty, though, in a ‘possibly libellous’ way, and so I’ll leave it here.

– Russ L

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