Thursday, June 29, 2006

Light Relief

In my local Magistrates Courts I do a fair number of trials. I get to see all of the faces that make up the local 'bench' of lay Magistrates. There are a number of Magistrates who I do have concerns about. There is one Magistrate who I am damn sure falls asleep in the middle of trials. I have seen their eyelids grow heavy, I have seen the Magistrate shut their eyes, and I have seen their head nod downwards as if they have briefly fallen asleep. I have been assured by a number of Clerks that this particular Magistrate is simply listening and the apparent sleeping is in fact their way of concentrating. Bizarre?

I stumbled across the following article on The Register web site. If I thought I had problems with a Magistrate that falls asleep then the people who have been before this judge clearly had greater problems:
A retired US judge is himself before the beak in Bristow, Oklahoma, "on charges he used a penis pump on himself in the courtroom while sitting in judgment of others", AP reports.

The trial of Donald D Thompson, 59, has reportedly provoked much courtroom merriment as the jury has been entertained by both a defence attorney and prosecutor indulging in "pantomime masturbation" and a former juror in Thompson's court identifying the sound of the pump because "he had seen such devices in Austin Powers and Dead Man on Campus".

A key witness in the trial has been former court reporter Lisa Foster. In giving testimony, she "wiped away tears as she described tracing an unfamiliar 'sh-sh' in the courtroom to her boss". Foster alleges that between 2001 and 2003 she saw the judge expose himself "at least 15 times", adding: "I was really shocked and I was kind of scared because it was so bizarre."

Foster further testified that during a 2002 trial, she heard the pump "during the emotional testimony of a murdered toddler's grandfather". She continued: "The grandfather was getting real teary-eyed, and the judge was up there pumping on that pump. It was sickening."

Thompson's pneumatic proceedings came to an end after a police officer heard the pump's distinctive signature during a case, and photographed the device during a recess. Thompson was charged with four counts of indecent exposure - each carrying a 10-year maximum sentence - and faces the possible withdrawal of his substantial $7,489.91 a month pension if found guilty.

From the witness box, Thompson claimed the pump was "a gag gift from a longtime friend with whom he had joked about erectile dysfunction". He admitted keeping it under the bench or in his office, but denied he'd ever used it. He added: "In 20-20 hindsight, I should have thrown it away."

Moments of light relief in the trial have included the aforementioned Austin Powers connection, offered by Daniel Greenwood, and expert witness Dr S Edward Dakil who "repeatedly prompted laughter" with his urology testimony.

When challenged by defense attorney Clark Brewster that the penis pump was "an out-of-date treatment for erectile dysfunction", Dakil asserted: "I still use those." After a suitable pause, Brewster enquired: "Not you, personally?" to which Dakil responded to jury laughter: "No. I recommend those as a urologist."


outraged wig said...

I am currently a barrister in private practice and have always wondered what the LSC pay to solicitors for Magistrates' court work. I would be immensely grateful if you could answer my query or direct me to the appropriate authorties and/or documents. In particular could you answer the following. What does the LSC pay:

i) where a guilty plea is entered at the first appearance in a case that is not committed to the Crown court?

ii) Where a not guilty plea is entered and the matter is listed for trial?

iii) does the overall amount increase for letters, telephone calls, conferences etc?

Gavin said...

Outraged Wig,

For all you could ever want to know about rates of pay that Criminal Defence Legal Aid solicitors receive you need to look at the General Criminal Contract, for the latest version follow this link.

We get paid standard fees for cases dealt with in the Magistrates Court. Standard fees are complicated. Travel and waiting is charged for seperately.

1. We get paid for a guilty plea regardless of whether it was at the first appearance, second appearance, or whether it was committed to the Crown Court. Generally speaking it will be about £200 for a guilty plea case (that is from start to finish). We do not get paid on a per appearance basis.

2. We get paid a standard fee for a not guilty plea case (again that is from start to finish), that can vary from about £400 to about £1,000. We can get paid more if lots of work is done.

3. Yes.

You have to remember that solicitors are paid on a case by case basis in the Magistrates Court whereas barristers are generally paid for on a hearing or appearance basis in the Magistrates Court.