Archive | February 2014

Silk on BBC

I really enjoy this series, although at times the errors in the legal process make me want to squirm. The courtroom scenes are awful – it just isn’t like that and no-one who behaved as Martha Costello does would ever get Silk.

However the tensions that arose in this first episode are very real. I’ve been in the Court of Appeal (awful place three ghouls ready to tear every comment, every argument to shreds particularly if you defend ) and wanted to shout at the judges that they are being unfair and can’t they see how the evidence has been concocted. But, you don’t do it, you sit in your seat, stand when you have to stand you do it, and show respect to the court even if you don’t feel it.silk

Then there is the criticism that Martha is too emotional. Clive Reader tells her in this first episode that she is acting like the client’s mother not his lawyer and that is another conflict in a legal life, trying to be as objective as you can because that  is the best thing for your client. The reason for that is that if you fight a case you can’t possibly win and the client is convicted then he will be given a tougher sentence than he would if he pleaded guilty. In this episode I believe the correct course of action would have been for the client David Cowdray to have pleaded guilty to manslaughter ( the Crown would probably have accepted that on the basis that he could not have reasonably foreseen that pushing the police officer would result in him falling and hitting his head on a metal lamp post which then resulted in his death ) The court would then have asked for Social Enquiry Reports which would have identified his schizophrenia. Martha could then have argued that instead of a prison sentence he should receive a Hospital Order for him to be treated for his illness.  So bad law but good story line.

There is another rule broken for the sake of the drama; never ask a question you don’t know the answer to. The photographs taken of the police officers together outside a house while one of them was still giving evidence did reveal a breach of the rules, but no barrister would use that without knowing whose house it was. In the scene where David’s girlfriend confirms that he had a camera and the police took it, Martha realises she can’t call her as a witness because when she was cross examined by counsel for the prosecution she would give evidence that would support the Crown’s case. These are the sort of decisions a barrister makes every day, the programme makes them more  extreme.

The senior clerk Billy Lamb could have been based on my original clerk. Old fashioned, not really interested in change. I am looking forward to the arguments between him and the new practice manager Harriet.

Looking forward to Episode 2.

Author Earnings

I have just read a report on authors’ earnings which can be found at http://authorearnings.com/the-report/ It makes interesting reading for anyone who is considering what they should do about getting work published. This report confirms, by an investigation of the statistics from various industry sources, the conclusion I arrived at after attending the Author Lounge at the London Book Fair last year. There is nothing to be ashamed about if you decide to self-publish, in fact you may be doing yourself a favour if you do it properly i.e. have it edited and get a well-designed cover.

Crucial Evidence Published

When I was awarded the degree of MA in Creative Writing in December 2009, I had about 50,000 words of a novel already written. Today three years and many words later, my novel has been published and I have a printed copy in my hand. The cover with the bar code of a DNA sample on the cover feels smooth under my fingers and there is the smell of new paper. I’m not sure I always wanted to be a writer. Certainly when I was a teenager I dreamt of writing a bestselling novel and I wrote short stories about young love.
Then life took over. I went to University and studied Law. I thought about writing academic books about the philosophy of law – after all why do people by and large obey the law- it’s a question that’s difficult to answer. But I didn’t really want to stay on at University, I wanted to get on with living and experiencing everything. I became a practising lawyer and if I wrote stories then it was in the form of jury speeches.
The life of a barrister leaves little time for anything other than work so although from time to time I would try writing a crime novel I never succeeded in finishing one. Now I have and I have a great sense of achievement. I have taken the road of direct publishing as the traditional route takes so long and is such a gamble.  crucial11
The story is of a mid thirties Barrister called Cassie Hardman. She is instructed to represent a young man, Lenny Barker, who is pleading not guilty to the brutal murder of prostitute Shelley Paulson. Initially Cassie believes him to be guilty until she discovers compelling new evidence. She risks her career and her ambition to become a QC to ensure Barker has a fair trial and will stop at nothing to locate the missing witness. Will she find the man in question before the jury retire to consider their verdict at the Old Bailey? And if Barker is acquitted who is really responsible.