The series continues with heightened drama but the representation of the legal process is corrupted by the story line.
In episode 3 the prosecution call DC Miller, the wife of the defendant, and while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that; the law is that a wife is a competent witness against her husband, but she is not compellable. What that means is that her evidence is capable of belief but if she declines to give evidence she cannot be forced to do so. In the circumstances where she is known to have assaulted her husband, I think most barristers would be reluctant to call her. She added very little to the issues for the jury.
Episode 4 has a number of glaring errors in the trial scenes. It is a long time since a witness was allowed to make a dock identification. In a real trial, if that was to happen, the defence would ask for the jury to leave the court and make an application for a retrial. Actually it makes Justine look incompetent as she allows the witness to deviate from her witness statement by asking if she recognised the man. There was no need for the question; the witness had given the evidence about seeing a man already, although what evidential value that had was difficult to understand. If the judge ruled that the trial should continue, cross-examination would be much more rigorous. The witness would have been asked about her previous statement, the time she made it and why she had left out the name of the man she saw. It is one of the common mistakes that a witness makes to say I told the police but they left it out. The police officer who took the statement would then be called and would inevitably say that the witness had not identified the person they saw and the defence can then assert that the witness is at best unreliable or a liar.
I did like the part where the defence silk says to her junior who is convinced their client is guilty, ‘Don’t say that. We never know for sure. He gets his defence.’ The sort of comment a real barrister would make to a pupil, particularly one who is described by her opponent as a rottweiler.
Researching Fleet Street for my novel I was reminded about the advice to look above shop window level to see what the buildings really looked like. I was doing just that when I noticed the number of different type of signs that shops displayed. The American interlopers MacDonalds and Starbucks had bland fascia boards on their shop fronts – so did Sainsburys so we can’t just blame trans-Atlantic invaders. Not surprisingly the pubs and wine bars had more distinctive signs.
So I wrote the following in my second Cassie Hardman novel,
‘She noticed the sign above the Punch public house, a gold painted profile of the character holding his truncheon aloft.
Then she saw the three gold balls of a pawn brokers, next to a sign proclaiming they were pawnbrokers of distinction. She wondered how long there had been a need for them so close to the Temple and what the phrase ‘a pawnbrokers of distinction’ meant; did they only deal with people of distinction or only lend money against objects of distinction. Whichever it would rule her out.
In an optician’s window she was amused by a poster for spectacle frames by Lanvin; a hundred or so sketches of faces with little bits of colour, a green bow tie or purple earrings, but hardly any glasses.
They walked past what had once been the entrance to Sergeants Inn. Cassie glanced into the courtyard where there was a large green elephant. She pondered on what the animal was meant to represent or indeed why it was there at all.
Soon they were under the oval sign of El Vino’s wine bar. The painted glass, in addition to the name, had the words Spain, Portugal, France, Germany Wines. What no Australian, New Zealand or Chilean, she thought. She remembered her pupil mistress telling her that at one time women were not allowed into the wine bar unless accompanied by a man and then they had to sit in the rear of the premises.
As they drew level with the faded sign of the three squirrels outside Gosling’s Bank, she heard James’s voice as if it was coming through water, asking her something about accounts. She shook her head as if to shake out fluid from her ear. ‘Sorry, I was miles away. You were saying?’
In between telling the various authorities, banks etc where I now live, I have finished the first set of amendments to the Printers Proof copy of Crucial Evidence. The next stage is to write a blurb for the back cover. Trying to condense a 90,000 word novel into 120 is really difficult. Which bit to include, which to leave out. Are the bits I think important the true turning points in the story? This is my first attempt;
Lenny Barker pleads not guilty to a charge of murdering prostitute Shelley Paulson. Cassie Hardman, junior barrister for the defence, believes he is just another defendant trying to avoid responsibility for his crime. Then, just before the trial begins, she discovers he has an alibi. Cassie is determined he will have a fair trial and risks her career to locate the crucial witness.
Will he be found before the jury retire to consider their verdict and will his evidence establish Barker’s innocence? If Barker is not the killer then who is? Can Cassie help Detective Constable Alexis Seymour in her efforts to solve the crime?
Is this enough? I don’t say where the novel is set or that the story follows Barker’s trial at the Old Bailey, which is an important part of the book. I could do to look at the blurb on other books, but all mine are in store at the moment until we get some bookshelves built.