There is one day from my BVC studies that is most memorable. A day I'll never forget and one that I think of to this day, and no doubt will for many years to come.
It all started with a compulsory, supervised court visit. For those unfamiliar with BVC, the course includes 4 court visits, 2 unsupervised, 2 supervised.
What with the demands of working and studying at the same time, I put off the supervised court visits until the last minute because it meant a day in London during the week and my time was squeezed.
Anyway, off I trotted to a well known London Crown Court for the second of my supervised visits. I didn't know any of the other BVC students; most were from the full-time course. The supervising tutor I knew vaguely.
So, supervising tutor asked us to put a tick next to our name on her sheet and explained that before we were let loose in the courts, we were to have a privileged tour of the Court by the Court's very own resident tour guide. We were led into a courtroom, where each aspect of the room's geography was explained in great detail. I should add at this point, that I was the oldest student there; a mature, professional woman.
The 10 - 15 minute guided tour lasted 45 minutes, despite the tutor's embarrassed gasps "Yes, yes, they know what a witness box is for, they've done mini-pupillages, law degrees, and all sorts of things to do with LAW; they know about witness boxes". Alas, when the tour guide said "You will all be wondering what these 12 seats are for. They are for a jury, j.u.r.y.. The jury decide whether the defendant is a bad person or a good person", I corpsed big style. Tears and the lot. So much for my maturity and all that. The tutor kept mouthing apologies to us and writhing in embarrassment, but the tour guide was oblivious and kept going.
We were shown a law book. It was a new one on me called "Archibold". I wasn't the only one laughing at this point (thankfully). We were also shown the VERY stairs that the judges walk down on their way to the court rooms. Tour guide seemed a tad disappointed that no-one fell to their knees to kiss the carpet, but nevertheless continued until the supervising tutor told her that we needed to really get to see some cases. Tutor then told us to go and find a case to watch and pissed off. So much for a supervised court visit.
Given my uncontrollable fit of giggles, I thought it best if I just find something boring to watch, as I didn't want to start corpsing in court.
I wandered into a room that had a very, very ordinary Public Order Offence trial going on. A one day trial that was really just suited to the Mags, but had found itself in the Crown Court. The trial had overrun, so I was joining it on the second day, towards the end. This I thought was an excellent idea on my part; I could watch an hour or so's advocacy, grab lunch, whilst writing up my visit notes and go home early.
Two barristers made their way into the court room; one male, one female. The female barrister was prosecuting. She should have been ugly. A young woman, not long out of Bar School I guess. She had hooded, slanted, masculine, grey eyes, a large hook nose and a jutty out chin to rival the nose. She also had a complexion as pure as alabaster, with the merest hint of pale pink about her cheeks. She was in short, so ugly, she was beautiful and had a face that was just so infinitely interesting, despite the fact (or maybe because of the fact) that it was emotionless and still and perfectly controlled. The slight upward tilt of her face gave her an air of confidence, perhaps even arrogance. A few other Bar students had joined me and she gave us the merest uninterested glance as she sat very still, waiting for the trial to re-commence.
The male defending barrister, who I shall call Mr O' Dringle, looked to be in his late 30's, early 40's. He appeared very bored indeed; totally fed up to be going into a second day (a Friday at that), of a run of the mill trial with nothing at all exciting about it. His demeanour was unfriendly and he cast an annoyed glance at we handful of students.
"Excuse me" ventured I. Mr O' Dringle cast a slow, arrogant, sarcastic glance in my direction and said nothing. "We're Bar students on a supervised court visit" I said. "Can we have both your names and your Chambers too, so that we can jot them down for our written court reports?". Mr O' Dringle's demeanour instantly and surprisingly transformed. He flashed a smile, stood up quickly and bowed, waxed lyrical and carefully spelt out his name, so that we could be sure to get it right.
The judge arrived and the trial resumed. There were a few odds and sods to go through before closing speeches, which filled us in on the gist of the case. The witness/victim said that the defendant (who she didn't know) had verbally abused her and spat at her whilst she was stood at a bus stop. The defendant denied the allegation.
The prosecuting barrister gave a very short closing speech, very simple, very concise, very clear. She pointed out that the victim had described the defendant's appearance comprehensively and accurately to the police before his arrest, and as such, the detailed account of her description was reliable.
Mr O' Dringle stood up. He was very tall. His legs were of normal length, but his back was very, very long. He bowed to the judge. A long, low, slow bow, made all the more animated by the sheer length of his back. Mr O' Dringle gave the jury a Turnbull Direction, which rather surprised us law students. He also directed the jury incorrectly on the burden of proof. I think there was a bit of Galbraith in there too, but can't be too sure.
Mr O' Dringle was in his element. A gaggle of Bar students, there to see how it was really done.
It was only a small court room. The jury were but a few metres away from Mr O' Dringle. They were sinking in their seats, they were yawning, they were hungry. Mr O' Dringle noticed none of this because he wanted to address the jury about mobile phones. No-one knew why and we students cast confused glances to one another. There had been no mention of the offence including a mobile phone. Nevertheless, Mr O' Dringle spoke at great length about mobile phones, well, until the judge stopped him that is. The judge huffed, puffed, coughed, shuffled papers, intervened and corrected - several times! Mr O' Dringle would slowly bow low to the judge, thank him for his assistance and continue where he left off. Mr O' Dringle's closing speech went on for over an hour. The judge adjourned for lunch and asked the Bar students to come back into court 15 minutes before the trial resumed.
We Bar students complied and went back to court early. The judge came into court and spoke to us. General chit chat. Who had a pupillage? Which Bar School? Which Inn? And so on. He asked if we had any questions. There were only one or two half hearted questions put forward. "Well I am surprised" said the judge. "This is the first time I've met a group of Bar students who haven't wanted to ask questions about advocacy". The court room fell silent. For what seemed a very long time there was complete silence. "We didn't like to say anything" said I. "Oh you must be talking about Mr O' Dringle" said the judge. "Don't worry, I've just given him a bollocking" said the judge. "My summing up should have been a few minutes. I'll be all afternoon undoing the bloody mess Mr O' Dringle has made. He's a very nice man though really" said the judge as he made his way back to his chambers to get ready for the afternoon.
When I got back home, I googled Mr O' Dringle. I expected to find that he was a mature aspirant to the Bar and hadn't been at it long. I was surprised to see, on his Chambers website, that Mr O' Dringle was of 17 years call.
How bloody weird is that?