Monday, November 21, 2005

I Can Shout Louder Than You

I had to deal with the trial from hell today. I attended at one of my local Magistrates Courts to deal with, amongst other things, an assault case where the Client had a problem with alcohol and had failed to provide any instructions prior to the trial date.

When I arrived at 9.30 am I hoped that the Client would not attend at Court because his case was so hopeless. After a series of phone calls I started to think that my client was not coming to Court but then he staggered in the door at about 10.35 am. When I introduced myself (I had not met the Client before) I was immediately greeted with a mouthful of verbal abuse where the Client was demanding to see his lawyer - after several attempts he finally worked out that I was in fact his solicitor.

I took the Client to an interview room and explained the matters for which he was being prosecuted, this also provoked the Client to demand to see his lawyer? Confused? I was too! Everytime I mentioned the charges my Client would shout out, "Are you not listening to me man, not guilty". The Client could not progress past the point of saying not guilty to explain why he was not guilty. Repeatedly through my delightful conversations with my Client he would shout, "Are you listening man?" to which I would reply, "Yes Mr. X, I am listening to your every word. That is the ?th time you have said that. Please do explain your case to me as so far you have provided no instructions at all". After 20 minutes of this experience I told my Client that due to the aggressive behaviour that he was displaying towards me I was going to leave the room and consider if I was going to continue to represent him. I was then called in to Court and told the district Judge that I was minded to withdraw from the case, the District Judge stated that he could not compel me to stay but did request that I remain to assist the Court. I do not know why but I remained.

After a further 20 minute shouting match with my Client I finally had some instructions. I discovered that if I shouted louder than my Client he was forced to listen to me, so I spent much of my time obtaining instructions by aggressively shouting at my Client.

The trial turned out to be an absolute nightmare. The Client would not contain himself and was removed from the Court for contempt of Court before lunchtime. I then represented the Client in his absence. After lunch the District Judge agreed to allow the Client to remain in the Court for the remainder of the hearing, but after about 15 minutes the Client because abusive towards the witnesses and was removed again. Eventually we got round to the Client giving evidence from the dock.

The Client was amazingly poor when giving evidence. He announced to the world that he had no convictions for assaulting Police Officers despite his antecedents showing four such convictions! He was crossed examined on that point and when the District Judge explained the reasons behind his findings of fact he commented that the Client was clearly a liar.

To my credit I managed to get one of the four charges dismissed on the basis that the prosecution evidence was weak, and for the three other matters the District Judge found the Client guilty but on a limited basis. This was a case where I expected to, and did, go down in flames.

To top the afternoon off the Client was remanded in custody, having previously been on bail, due to his late arrival.

This is another notable 'drunk' case where I have had no choice but to proceed to trial with a drunk Client. These cases always go wrong because the Client is always so unpredictable.


Anonymous said...

If a client wants to act like a twat then I have absolutely no sympathy with them when they end up in the cells!!

Anonymous said...

I as a retired Police officer wonder sometimes as why solicitors duty or otherwise even try to hold rational conversations with drunk and abusive clients. Why if they turn up late at court and drunk as described are they not locked away until sober or better still just ignored and dealt with for contempt.

Unknown said...

You state that to your credit you managed to get one of the charges dismissed. Was he in fact innocent?

Gavin said...

Only of a minor assault. He was convicted of three other matters.

A non mouse said...

Hah, thats how every single drunk prisoner acts. I'm happy to see that the solicitors get it too!

Anonymous said...

"Only a minor assault" is still an offence is it not?

Having to represent tossers like this? Just think how the police feel having to deal with him before you get to defend him and get the chance to get him off?

Sometimes by denigrating the hapless police officer or witness, who you would probably criticise for shouting at your client in the same way, thus provoking him to commit the offences for which he appeared before the court?

Gavin said...

Outsider, why all the hostility?

When I mentioned a 'minor assault' I was referring to the matter that had been dismissed against him - and if he was cleared of that matter then no it would not be an offence because the Court ruled that they were not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an offence had taken place.

I have missed your second point about denigrating Police Officers and witnesses? Whatb did you mean?

Anonymous said...

As a recently retired Peeler I have noticed more and more over recent years, the Defence's tendancy towards, "if the evidence is too good, then attack the behaviour/character/conduct of the officer or witness."

You are happy to ridicule your client for the way he behaved towards you,and undoubtedly found it difficult to deal effectively with him.

But in my experience the Defence would not hesitate to generate criticism of those in contact with him in order to excuse the "totally out of character, behaviour born out of frusration at the officer's/aggrieved's in ability to help my client, your worships/M'Lud/Sir..etc.,"

In other words welcome to the receiving end for a change and consider how YOU felt when confronted by the a*sole.

Can you honestly say, Gavin, that you have never built a defence on the basis of character assassination of police or witness?

Anonymous said...

I take the lack of response to the above as a "yes" then?

Gavin said...

Sorry outsider,

I have been instructed to mount character assassainations on witnesses before but I can say that I have never come up with the idea of doing it by myself.

There are many cases where the defendant claims that they are being prosecuted despite acting reasonably in the circumstances. For example an assault on another person, or assaulting a PC.

Personally I do not think that it is wise to embark on a character assassination because without other evidence, because otherwise the only defence put forward is that the Defendant only committed the crime because the victim deserved it, or the victim is just a bare faced liar.

I tend to advise my Clients that a defence based on a character assassination is never likely to succeed but ultimately I am generally bound to run a case on the instructions that I am given - therefore I do not have a great deal of choice whether I ask questions about people's character and accuse them of bad deeds.

I am not suggesting that I am powerless in the way a case is conducted but it is ultimately my Client's case.

This is a trick that the prosecution also use. In cross examining a defendant it is not rare to see a prosecutor suggest that a defendant is a bare faced liar and they are lying simply to prevent a conviction.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I thought that the Police were well versed in obtaining statements 'loaded' towards discrediting defendants.
"People in glass houses..." OUTSIDER!

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