If it is Monday and Tuesday in late March or early April then I must be in a Court. No, I haven’t committed a crime or two, nor am I a lawyer (albeit I know a bit about the law)but on two successive Monday’s and Tuesday’s I was in a Court which was an interesting experience.
Court Appearance No. 1.
I had received a summons for Jury Service locally in the Isle of Man which quite by chance had arrived just after I had returned from our 50 day cruise.
Had it been sent out just after our cruise had started, I am not sure what the Court service would have done in the absence of any response from me – probably arrested me.
Anyway, being a small island, only a small number of people (21) are summonsed, well in excess of the number of jurors required, who all meet at the first day of the trial, watch a short introductory video and are led into Court.
A ballot ensues and although the last time I was not called, this time, my name is the 2nd one out of the box and nobody objected to me so there I am sitting at the head of the jury benches (the first person called was objected to) watching the others being selected out of the ballot box.
Once the 7 jurors had been selected – many persons whose names had been read out were already excused and some were objected to for various reasons so the whole process took about 10-15 minutes – we were sworn in and had the case presented to us by the prosecution before witnesses were called and the defence had the opportunity to present the defence.
To cut a long story short, the jurors are then asked to deliberate on the evidence and return a guilty or not guilty verdict.
This case lasted into a 2nd day and of course we were not allowed to discuss the case with anyone until after the case had been completed.
The defendant’s livelihood is at stake here and we as jurors must get the verdict right which I hope we did before we went our separate ways.
Court appearance No. 2
I left working for an employer nearly 5 years ago but had the thought at the back of my mind that one day, a particular case might still need my input and I was not wrong.
Before we embarked on our January cruise, I had received notification that I would be required to give evidence at a trial in London of some individuals who I had dealt with whilst working for this particular employer so the letter awaiting me on my return was not unexpected.
Flights, train travel and a hotel were organised to enable me to attend Southwark Crown Court and I must say that the organisers were very accommodating with my other travel plans, fitting in my court appearance to suit me as well as them.
What I was not expecting though was to be on the witness stand (actually I was able to sit) for two whole days and even then they were not able to finish with my evidence, this had to be completed (at my suggestion) by way of a video link back home three weeks later which thankfully only lasted about 30 minutes..
The court room was not only filled with the usual people (including 20 or so lawyers in robes) but unlike my experience the previous week, many monitors were in place scattered around the court room all of which were used by the court to refer certain people in court to particular documents or witness statements as directed by the judge and implemented by a technical team.
The 12 jurors had been chosen from a short list after the presiding judge had reviewed a sort of CV each prospective juror (I believe over 90) had been asked to complete. Even then, one chosen juror was very honest and early on in the trial had asked to be excused as he or she said they “did not have the mental ability to understand the case”.
I must say I have a lot of admiration for the jurors in this case bearing in mind the content of the case and the projected length of time the case is likely to last – some of them have jobs to go back to!
Obviously I cannot go into too much detail about the case but the above does represent some of the views I can share.
Having to answer questions continuously for two days on something that happened well over 5 years previously was somewhat taxing to say the least so I was grateful of the lunch breaks and comfort breaks afforded during the proceedings and I must say the area around the Court House including Hays Wharf was modern, lively and considerably more photogenic than the actual courthouse itself which looks like something from the old USSR in design.
The hotel I stayed at had a good morning view of the city once the mist had cleared although by the time I returned in the evening, it just wasn’t quite the same. It was an area I was not all that familiar with so an interesting two lunchtimes were spent exploring.
By the time I got home on the 2nd day, it was time to pack for our next adventure – the following day – in our new car, to Jersey.