Has the British criminal trial system ever been any good? Unfortunately we have transported it round the World already whatever the answer to that is!
In a Court case we work here on an ‘adversarial’ system – that means that it is a giant ‘fight’ between combatants, and the strongest or cleverest person wins (doesn’t sound much like ‘justice’ does it?). Who are the persons involved? The Accused and the Victim (or the Victim’s relatives in the situation of say murder)?
Don’t be silly – it is nobody with anything at all to do with the criminal matter in hand! The representative for each corner is some smartarse (or non-smartarse) lawyer (barrister), whoever can be afforded by the ‘adversaries’. The victim of the crime is championed by the State (the Crown officially) so you would expect that side to have the best (most expensive) fighter. WRONG! The State has got the most money, but certainly won’t spend it on the prosecution barristers. But the main Defence barrister however can be a very expensive privatised git, motivated solely by the money generating publicity of a major jousting competition.
The one you have to feel sorry for is the victim. In the British method of justice the victim has no say whatsoever in what happens to the perpetrator. No say about how any investigation (if any) is run. No say on what charges are laid. No say about remand in jail. No say on bail. No say on trial arrangements. No say in selecting the champion. No say on the jury. No say on witnesses. No say on the prosecution strategy. No say on the outcome. No say on the sentencing. No say on early release. No say on parole. No say on arrangements when the convict is released into society. No say where the perpetrator lives (even if next door). No. All the victims role’s is to act as perhaps a witness in the actual trial itself – but no say either in that of course.
In Britain the accused doesn’t have to prove they didn’t do the deed – the prosecution have to prove they did. Before anybody is charged though with a crime the authorities analyse the evidence gathered by the police against them and only allow the case to go before a jury if the evidence is compelling. How comes then that the Accused gets off? The smartest lawyer is a clue!
It is commonly known that for example Doctors have a medical bible called the British National Formulary (BNF)[ in which they look up (mostly so you don’t know) or nowadays check on their computer, that tells them the drugs and quantities to give patients. Well possibly? lawyers have their own clandestine book of a 1001 successful defences (in Britain if a defence is a winner it can be and is used tirelessly, unless and until the law is changed to block it – that is called ‘precedence’.
Lawyers are supposedly not allowed to create defences for their clients, so alternatively they can simply question the Accused using the 1001 ideas manual? until the client catches-on and selects one: like for example:
The Accused might be asked “Were you coerced and felt that you or one of your family were threatened and in mortal danger”? “When you killed your wife you cornered in a café having morning coffee had she belittled the size of your manhood/been having an affair/nagged you until lost control”? “When you failed to stop for the Police and started a car chase did you realise it was them or did you think, despite the siren and blue flashing lights, that it was a rival gang and your life was in real jeopardy”? “When you were drunk in charge of a car did you really drink 6 pints of lager and chasers as witnessed, or do you suspect that someone spiked your drink”? “When you had sex with the woman who you didn’t know did you really rape her or did you think it was with her consent because she didn’t scream very loud”? “When you drove the car used in the bank robbery did you know that the others were going armed and masked to steal, or thought they were going to anonymously lodge money in? When you hit the man on the head with a hammer from behind, smashing his scull did you intend to kill him or only hurt him a little, because that would only be manslaughter and not murder”? “When you committed the most horrendous crime of passion did you realise what you were doing, or were you out of your mind at the time, because that would be classified as diminished responsibility”? “Will you say you are truly truly sorry for your crime if we lose the verdict?”
IN THAT CASE AS YOUR LEGAL REPRESENTAIVE I ADVISE YOU TO PLEAD NOT GUILTY.
So that is why when you read court reports of proceedings it is always like groundhog day!
The most bizarre thing about British justice is the verdicts – sorry to say there are only two available.
The ‘guilty’ verdict means that the Accused did the deed (well to be exact ‘beyond reasonable doubt’).
The ‘not guilty’ verdict doesn’t really mean that the Accused didn’t do the deed, but only that the prosecution failed to prove it (to the satisfaction of the jury anyway). Many criminals therefore get away with it and so escape justice with ‘not guilty’ verdicts, moreover they walk off ‘without a stain on their character’ apparently, to frequently carry on to commit even more crimes until with luck they are eventually found ‘guilty’.
This is ridiculous. In Scotland they do at least have the option of a ‘not proven’ outcome, which indicates that the Accused has been acquitted but still isn’t necessarily squeaky clean!
Why do we allow the Accused the benefit of the doubt at the start of the court process with presumed innocence? Why should they not be required to demonstrate their so called innocence where appropriate? Often they are clearly able to provide precious information aboutthe crime, but they are allowed to respond with “No Comment” etc. They are allowed NOT to give evidence at their trial. Why should that be? The prosecution should be entitled to force them into the witness box – after all surely we are all trying to get to the truth here, and the current system simply protects the guilty.
Don’t worry we are not alone in following this idiotic line – in the USA they also do it and allow accused individuals to plead the 5th Amendment which means that they don’t have to say anything and admit what they are suspected of – most Americans don’t even guess that this is an abuse of their original Civil Rights legislation enacted to prevent abuse of power by the State – it was NOT to let the guilty escape justice (but their even more smart arsed lawyers drove a coach and horses through that little loophole – little hope of their cowardly politicians putting a stop to that though is there?.)
In England the Accused who are guilty wont plead guilty of course – no not by a long chalk! They will plead not guilty despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This means that they are allowed to abuse the justice system, employ expensive legal teams at our expense, waste enormous time and resource of the legal system, cause alarm and distress to victims and witnesses alike, and then spend weeks in Court (telling preposterous lies through their barrister), with all the impact that implies (including traumatising the poor jurors who have to undergo the often distressing details of the evidence).
The ‘system’ is supposed to discourage this by saying that there will be a penalty to pay when claiming innocence if then found guilty – like say an increased sentence. There you get another joke; whatever sentence is passed the prisoner only faces at worst half of that (because we don’t have the room in our jails you see!), so any extra jail time added for trying for not guilty, pales into insignificance. Well worth the risk – wouldn’t be though if they faced a real punishment (like hard labour or an American style high security prison, instead of a cushy British prison as insisted upon by the do-gooders).
Then there are the most evil of the Accused – the ones who have committed the most unspeakable crimes. They are going to be put away ‘forever’ (or hopefully close to it), so they certainly are going to plead not guilty, because there is nothing to lose; nothing extra that can be added to their punishment is there? (because we unfortunately don’t allow torture in Britain these days!).
There is something badly wrong with a judicial system that allows smart arsed lawyers to defend the indefensible and come up with unbelievable scenarios in a vain attempt to get their client off. Following a guilty verdict they simply trot off with their trousers loaded to await the next guilty verdict payday.
Is there any solution – because every Accused is entitled to be defended surely? Every Accused is innocent until proved guilty? Well, Yes! Simply have an arrangement whereby Defence lawyers funded under legal aid get paid on a ‘No Win No Fee’ basis. That means they don’t get paid unless the Accused is acquitted. That would soon put a stop to the gerrymandering that goes on with major criminal trials and makes the proper delivery of justice in Britain a laughing stock. The Accused can raise their own funds to pay for their celebrity expensive lawyers (as they have to do in many other countries), or the do-gooders can put their own money where their mouth is.
[Perhaps though the fat cat defence lawyers can be persuaded and will be happy to work for the minimum wage?].
The fate of any convicted criminal lies in the hands of the judge (or at the lower level magistrate). How often do you read the court report comment to the criminal by the judge ”I am going to take a chance on you ….etc”. But what personal chance is the judge taking? NONE. They are chancing our safety or whatever, not theirs. None of their mistakes come back to bite then. Even as their soft or misguided judgements rebound or constantly get overturned by the court above them, they carry on their merry way – making mistake after mistake with no retribution. Judges you see are above the law when it comes to that. In what other profession can mistakes (even leading to loss of life!) not result in loss of position or even the sack? [Someone has ‘a quiet chat’ though if a judge falls asleep during a trial (excusable really though as many are well past their ‘best before date’!)].
Will our justice system change? Don’t be silly! Those running it and benefiting from it grew up in it and owe their success to it. They are not going to allow outsiders to upset the apple cart are they? OVER THEIR DEAD BODY!