Monday, 27 October 2008

H is for Hackneyed

Hackneyed -adj - used so often as to be trite, dull and stereotyped.

Barmaid fears that her forthcoming (pretend) bail application is hackneyed. The same old stuff, trotted out for the bored (and probably irritable) Magistrate to stifle a yawn at. What it needs is bells and whistles, but alas, the 'Beak' probably wouldn't appreciate Barmaid's stunning little tap dance routine to round off the application, but instead will have to endure, "er unless there are any further questions, er no?, er well er, that's er it then er."

In attempting to be a smart arse, Barmaid has picked at the prosecution's evidence to unearth every little weakness and has gotten herself tangled up in reams of notes that are now far too long and far too complicated to have any sort of flow. But it's knowing what to chop out and what to keep, it all seems to be relevant, but it's just soooo long winded and complex and requires constant referral as to who did what, when, how, why. Oh dear, what looked to be a simple little exercise is turning out to be a biography of the life and times of Mr Petty Alleged-Wrongun.

Monday, 6 October 2008

How to speak proper like

Just had my very first advocacy lesson and as Iain Morley says, I need to practise, practise, practise!

My family have cheered up anyway, the dvd of my efforts made everyone laugh. If I'd known that I was going to be filmed, I'd have flown in my make-up artist and hairdresser to add the final touches, just before the performance. I'd love to say that, having got the first one out of the way, my nerves are now settled, but the thought of doing the bail application next time makes me feel quite nauseous. It is remarkable, that out of a total of 6 different subjects studied over the weekend, the only one on everyone's lips was 'advocacy'.

Talking of everyone else, the others are all pretty cool and some really put me to shame with their polished advocacy performances. Memo to me: MUST TRY HARDER.

Criminal Litigation was great. Civil Litigation was a little daunting, the volume of work required is enormous. Legal Research is turning out to be a bit like Marmite, some love it, many hate it. It isn't the actual legal research itself that is the problem, it's the rules surrounding the research record that has to be compiled, that causes frustration and annoyance amongst many. Hard copy research of Halsbury's Laws just isn't funny. It's too early to say what Opinion Writing will be like, but it will probably improve as the course progresses.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

The Jury's Out?

I have just read an interesting, but disturbing article on Marilyn Stowe's Blog, concerning the recent murder trial of Joanne Hill. Mrs Hill murdered her daughter, Naomi, by drowning her in the bath. Naomi had cerebral palsy and it has been well reported in the media that Joanne Hill was an 'evil woman', who was 'ashamed' of her daughter. Yet closer inspection reveals a slightly different story, that of a depressed woman, who had attempted to commit suicide on two occasions and who was also diagnosed with severe post natal depression, following the birth of daughter. In fact Joanne Hill's history of mental illness went back to her teenage years, when she was treated for depression and 'abnormal' thoughts.

It seems that after Joanne Hill had killed Naomi, she dressed her and put her in the car and was subsequently captured on CCTV at a petrol station, laughing and joking with a colleague. The jury took just one hour and twenty minutes to reach a verdict of guilty. The jury decided that Joanne Hill was bad, but not mad. So, no doubt after a loo break and a cuppa, the jury probably spent less than an hour deciding this woman's culpability, who incidentaly was flanked by 2 psychiatric nurses during the trial.

Like many law students, I am a strong proponent of the jury system, it's a historic, fundamental right to be tried by one's peers and all that...

But, I recently sat in on a local criminal trial, quite a complex affair involving 2 defendants and 4 indictments. Following 6 days of evidence, the jury were sent out to deliberate. Having sat through 3 hours of closing speeches, 2 hours of summing up, the jury were dismissed to consider all possible angles to the case, armed with a 20 minute CCTV tape to watch and a bundle of documents to peruse. A little over 40 minutes later, at about 4p.m. they returned a majority verdict. The judge made them return the following day.

By coincidence I travelled the same train route as one of the jurors and walked behind her as she sashayed out of the court and towards the station, looking very pleased with herself. It was at that precise point that my faith in the jury system was shaken to the core. I knew from her self righteous demeanor that guilty verdicts had been found, but that wasn't my problem with this jury, it was the lack of time they took to go over all of the evidence. Counsel for each side had each presented credible arguments about the contents of the CCTV and other evidence, arguments that deserved a fair amount of thought, but no, some of the jurors were entering their third week of jury service and clearly wanted out. Incidentally, the defendants spent the first 2 days of trial unable to hear the prosecution evidence against them, someone had switched off the courtroom microphones, so the glass enclosed dock had no sound going to it.

So, if I'm ever arrested for a triable either way offence and given the choice, I'm off down the Magistrates Court, no jury trial for me, not on your life.