Just a quick thought as we move into 2019. In the last pages of her book, the Secret Barrister bemoans the lack of interest in the Criminal Justice System in comparison to the NHS or education.
Her book has been a best seller but in The Guardian, on Saturday the list of 100 bestsellers for the year was published and guess what ‘The Secret Barrister’ was nowhere to be seen but ‘This is Going to Hurt; secret diaries of a Junior Doctor’ by Adam Kay was number 2. Says it all really!
I would urge anyone who values freedom to read The Secret Barrister and for a more fictionalised account of how the Criminal Justice System works try either of my novel ‘Crucial Evidence’ or ‘Reluctant Consent.’ on Amazon.
I suppose George Carman was one of the more colourful members of the Bar and my first meeting with him was a little strange to say the least. I was still an articled clerk and I was sent to Blackpool Quarter Sessions to sit behind him in a case of causing death by dangerous driving. He was a small rather busy man, always dressed in pinstripe trousers with a black jacket and the silk waistcoat worn by QC’s. The client was pleading guilty to the charge and after a rather tedious conference, with him George went off to do some work in the robing room. I was left sitting with the client until, about half an hour before the midday adjournment, I was summoned to see George.
‘Go and find out if there is any chance of our case coming on before lunch,’ he said. I did as I was told and scurried off to find the court usher. My enquiries revealed that we were unlikely to be called before the court rose. I returned with the news to the robing room. When I told George he snorted and said, ‘Damn, well I suppose we’d better make the best of it. Do you know where Robert’s Oyster Shop is on the promenade?’
It was a silly question; everyone living in Blackpool knew where to get oysters. I told him I did.
‘Good. Go and tell Robert I want a dozen oysters and a pint of Guinness and tell him I’ll pop in and pay later.’
I was to meet George on many occasions; there were a few other cases while I was still an articled clerk and then when I was living in London and had become a barrister, we frequented the same drinking holes, but I was never in the same case as him again until much later on in my career.
In early 1981 I was instructed to represent a solicitor who was charged with defrauding the Legal Aid Fund of many thousands of pounds. The case was tried in Manchester and I was being led by the leader of the Northern Circuit Mick Mcguire and George was prosecuting. As George called the various witnesses, court clerks, law society staff we began to undermine the prosecution case, which was based on a number of false premises, one of which was that a bail application would only take ten minutes of court time. That was torpedoed when a bail application was interposed in our trial; the judge said it would only take fifteen minutes at the most. It took over an hour as Mick Mcguire pointed out. George was clearly getting rattled as we scored again and again, until one lunch time we heard him on the telephone to the Director of Public Prosecutions. ‘I can take a few bullet holes below the waterline but a bombshell is too much.’
No oysters for George that day.
I have been at sea for over two weeks and without any internet connection. I’ve missed two episodes of Silk but I will catch up with those thanks to BBC iPlayer and see what Martha Costello has been up to. So wait for those comments in due course.
In the meantime a number of people have written reviews about my novel Crucial Evidence on Amazon and on Good Reads. Some of the comments confirm what I have long suspected; that many people have very little idea about how the Criminal Justice system works. In particular one criticism of the novel was that Cassie Hardman gave away too much information about the case of R v Barker, because he believed the the proceeding were private. I do wonder if that is because cases are rarely reported in full in the newspapers these days, although the case involving Rebekah Brooks has been followed fairly closely in the news and we are getting a blow by blow account of the Pistorius case.
Perhaps the Bar ought to do more to ensure the general public do understand the process and how important it is and then perhaps the public would be more supportive of the Bar in their fight against cuts to Legal Aid.
Incidentally Crucial Evidence is receiving 4 to 5 star reviews on Amazon.