I was away and without TV or internet access for over three weeks,so I have just caught up with the last two episodes. As they are both about the same story line I thought it was appropriate to write about them together. Although the story line made great drama, any attempt to be realistic was abandoned in these episodes.
Martha takes on the case of Seam McBride, a former boyfriend from her home town, who is charged with murder. At the beginning of episode 5 she tells him no barrister would agree to represent such a close friend, and then proceeds to ignore her own advice. The reason for not representing somebody you know well was illustrated when the names of people booking rooms at the hotel where the murder took place were those of other pupils in the same class as Martha and McBride. It was a piece of evidence that pointed to his guilt. She knew that, yet in order to keep defending him she had to keep quiet about it. The effect of that would probably be to mislead the court and that is unethical and puts her in breach of the professions’ code of conduct. Of course she would have known that information before the case started as the hotel’s register and bookings list would have been part of the prosecution case.
She also is so sure of his innocence. ‘I can tell by looking in their eyes if they are guilty or not,’ she says. She is so committed to the idea that the police make the evidence fit the case for guilt that she loses all objectivity. The discovery of the gun and of McBride’s jacket add to the weight of evidence against him and Martha really doesn’t know how to deal with this apart from accusing the police of framing her client. She really should have asked for the jury to be discharged so that the jacket and the gun could be forensically examined. She might then have found out that the gun was fired by a left handed man rather than the right handed McBride.
Recalling bent solicitor Micky Joy to testify he says that lawyers just play games in court and the first casualty is truth. Coming from a dishonest lawyer that was a bit of a liberty. I am sure though it’s what many people believe, but jury trial is not meant to find the truth but to establish guilt or innocence, in the belief that the system we use of testing the evidence by cross examination ensures that the guilty are convicted and the innocent go free. Most lawyers believe it works and that is the reason they so passionately defend our adversarial trials.
For the rest of the two episodes they reflected some of the life of a set of Chambers. For example the interest in boxing was quite common as young men were taught to box, often in clubs supported by Oxbridge Universities, in order to divert them from criminal activity. The allegation of sexual harassment against Billy showed the strong loyalty in the clerks’ room to a flawed but tremendously humane personality like Billy.
So is this the last of Martha Costello and Shoe Lane Chambers. Perhaps not, but I think most barristers even if they find the series too flawed to really enjoy it would applaud Maxine Peake’s support of their cause in fighting for justice4all against the current Lord Chancellor.
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.
I was asked to do this by Catherine Lumb. I think it’s an interesting excercise to make you think about your writing.
What is the title of the book/WIP?
The book is called Crucial Evidence. Apart from WIP it’s had about five titles including ‘Defending the Innocent.’ and ‘Missing Alibi’
Where did the idea come from?
I know that defending an innocent man is the hardest thing a barrister can do. I expanded on that theme so that my main character goes to unusal lengths to ensure her client gets a fair trial.
What Genre is your WIP.
It’s a crime novel, legal drama.
Which actors would you chose to play your characters in a movie rendition.
I am tempted to say Maxine Peake as she plays a very similar character in Silk, but prehaps she should play my police officer, Alexis Seymour, and Anne Marie Duff could play Cassie Hardman, my barrister, but perhaps she’s too attractive for Cassie.
What is your one sentence synopsis of your WIP
Female barrister Cassie Hardman, sure her client is innocent of murder, searches for a crucial witness, and with Police woman, Alexis Seymour, finds the witness and then identifies the real killer.
Is your WIP published or represented?
I have sent the book to a number of Literary Agents without any sucess, but this year the consulting editor of a major publishing house asked to read the whole book. She didn’t want to take it any further after reading the novel, but she made some suggestions about the book and I am now redrafting it with those in mind with the intention of resubmitting it again.
How long did it take to write it?
About three years so far. I keep on rewriting it when I see flaws or I’ve had comments about it from Literary Agents, which make sense to me.
What other books within your genre would you compare it with.
‘Presumed Innocent’ by Scott Turow, the outstanding example of a legal thriller, and John Grisham’s ‘A Time to Kill.’
Which authors inspired you to write this WIP
Charles Dickens. ‘Bleak House’ is a great legal drama with strong identifiable characters. You can find the same types in the legal profession today.
Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in this project?
If you have ever asked yourself how can a barrister represent a person they believe is guilty, you will find the answer.