Tag Archives: justice

The most feared comedy critic at the Edinburgh Fringe and her links to crime

Could this wordsmith have saved you from a prison sentence?

At this month’s Grouchy Club meeting in London, I talked to comedy critic Kate Copstick, one of the judges of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards.

“So,” I started, “you were trained as a lawyer in Scotland…”

“Yes, I did a law degree at Glasgow University because I watched Margaret Lockwood in the TV series Justice at a very impressionable age and I saw the original Witness For The Prosecution with Charles Laughton when my whole brain was malleable. I got this idea that lawyers were there to help people… I pause for laughter.

“I really just wanted to be an actress, but then my mum died very suddenly and my dad went to pieces and I thought: We must do something to cheer up my dad. What I had always done to cheer up my dad, my gran, my mum – anybody – was do something clever – win a prize, be first in the class, something.

“So I thought: Great! I will make him magically forget the love of his life to whom he has been married for 17 years has just died overnight of a brain haemorrhage… by announcing that I am going to do a law degree.”

“Very sensible,” I said. “How long was the course?”

“Four years for an Honours degree. And then, in Scotland, you do an apprenticeship and then, if you want to go to the Bar, you do devilling.”

“Devilling?”

“They call it pupilage in England.”

“You enjoyed your law course?”

“It was great. I was drunk through most of the degree.”

“And you were bonking…”

“Endlessly. I fucked people for the same reason people climb mountains. Because they’re there.”

On his death in 2015, the Telegraph called Joe a man of “integrity and passion”

“And you wanted to be…?”

“A criminal lawyer and the really, really famous guy who all the criminals in Glasgow went to was Joe Beltrami. He was a phenomenal lawyer who judged nobody and absolutely gave everybody the best defence they could get. They had never had any women working for them other than as secretaries but I persuaded Joe Beltrami and did my apprenticeship with them and it was – fucking hell! – a bit of an eye-opener.”

“You were not doing motoring offences…”

“No. They only did the biggies – murder, armed robbery, rape. So I spent most of my time interviewing witnesses, talking to the police, collecting bits-and-bobs of evidence at prisons or in the High Court. It was a TOTAL eye-opener.”

“At what point,” I asked, “did you discover there was no justice?”

“Fairly early on. It completely turned the way I thought about… the way I thought about everything. I had just come out of university. What the fuck did I know? Nothing.”

“Why did you stop being involved in the legal system?”

“One reason was that I was just getting so angry. Because of the unfairness of the system. You see an actual policeman standing there just lying. Not being mistaken, but telling a direct lie and then two of his friends stepping up and saying: Yes, I can corroborate what DC So-and-so was saying. Seeing that and knowing there is nothing you can do about it because the jury are thinking: It’s the police. So it’s true…

The Scottish media called Walter Norval Glasgow’s Godfather & “first crime boss”

“I learned more and more that you can be found guilty because your accent is wrong, because you look wrong, because you don’t know the right words. You can be found innocent because you have a posh fucking Eton accent and you can see the jury thinking: He’s such a nice chap; how can he have possibly done that? And there is nothing legally you can do about it, because the law is just a big boys’ game. If you try and go up against that, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

“I only know the English system,” I said, “not the Scottish system, but isn’t the whole basis of the court system that you are not judging whether someone is innocent or guilty, you are judging which of two legal eagles is putting forward a better case and which is the more credible liar?”

“It’s all shite, John,” said Copstick. “I was at the point where I was thinking: Well, if the police are going to lie, then I will lie. And, that way, absolute madness lies.”

“I once,” I said, “talked to (a former Conservative Prime Minister)’s personal solicitor. He was a top city solicitor. And he told me he would never put a Metropolitan Police officer into the witness box without corroboration because you could never guarantee they were telling the truth.”

“The scariest people I ever met in Glasgow,” said Copstick, “were members of the Serious Crimes Squad.”

“Joe Beltrami,” I said, “was Arthur Thompson’s lawyer, wasn’t he? So that is very serious stuff.”

“I never met Arthur Thompson,” Copstick replied. “But one of the clients I worked with was a guy called Walter Norval, who was known as The Glasgow Godfather. That would be at the end of the 1970s or the early 1980s, I guess. His speciality was armed robbery. He was another nail in the coffin of my legal career.

“This was a man who had stood like a colossus over the criminal world of Glasgow… allegedly… for many years with many armed bank robberies. Nobody particularly got hurt. But there were a load of sawn-off shotguns going around and a load of banks robbed. Generally speaking he was never at the robberies. He was the mastermind. You don’t get Mr Marks and Mr Spencer on the shop floor offering 2-for-1 on knickers.

Daily Record reported Norval’s 2014 funeral.

“Walter Norval was arrested. The big evidence the police had was that he had gone from the site of an armed bank robbery, driven home and parked his brown Ford Granada car outside his house with four sawn-off shotguns in the boot – like yer average criminal mastermind does. And that was what he got convicted on.

“I went in and saw him afterwards and asked him: Is this not driving you absolutely mental? It was all a lie! 

“He said: Well, to be honest, there’s a lot of things I’ve done that I’ve got away with and this I did not do but it sort of evens-out.

“And I thought: But that doesn’t excuse it! This is criminal policing at the highest level. And they’re fucking liars. I was just too angry. I was getting too angry. And angry gets you nowhere in law. Especially as a female. Emotion gets you nowhere.

“You have to know when you’re beaten. I would have ended up being found out to have fiddled something. It just made me so angry.”

“If a crime is committed in England,” I said, “the police investigate the crime and find the person they believe committed the crime. Then they go to the Crown Prosecution Service who decide if, on a balance of probability, they will get a Guilty verdict in court. In court, it’s nothing to do with finding out the facts because the facts have already been investigated and the accused is presumed to be guilty unless ‘proven’ innocent. In court, it’s about two trained liars in a competition to see which performs better.”

“Up to a point,” said Copstick. “It’s a game. It’s like chess. I think what you’re struggling to say is that there is a massive dichotomy between law and justice.”

“I went to a grammar school,” I said, “which was a bit up itself. So it had a ‘debating society’ and the most admirable thing you could do there was argue on and win a proposition you did not believe in yourself. To me, that’s dishonesty. But that’s the basis of the legal system. You are very argumentative.”

“Yes,” agreed Copstick.

“Once you decide to take one side,” I suggested, “you will argue that case come what may.”

“Now I can be Devil’s Advocate,” said Copstick. “Back then, I was completely incapable of doing that.”

The argumentative side of Copstick will be on show next month when she and I host the daily Grouchy Club at the Edinburgh Fringe 14th-27th August, as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival. The Grouchy Club has been labelled by The Scotsman as “a talking shop for comics riding the emotional rollercoaster of the Edinburgh Fringe” and by me as “a rolling Copstick diatribe”.

After the Fringe finishes, the Grouchy Club continues monthly in London.

For anyone on the receiving end of one of her comedy reviews in Edinburgh – Best of luck.

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Filed under Crime, Glasgow, Legal system, Scotland

What it is like to be on the jury of a murder case at the Old Bailey in London

The Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey

The Central Criminal Court of England & Wales at the Old Bailey

A week ago, I posted a blog about a court case.

It was in a minor court.

I know someone else who, a few years ago, was a juror at the Old Bailey in London – the Central Criminal Court of England & Wales.

He kept a diary.

What follows is extracted from it.

Two weeks is the legal requirement for jury service but, as the selection of a jury is random and some cases may take longer than two weeks, sometimes thirty or more potential jurors can be selected by computer and taken to the court room.


JURY SELECTION

30 of us are led down to Court 16.

The judge tells us the case is likely to run a month and 20 names will be called at random. If our name is called we are to approach the bench and explain to him if we have a problem with the duration of the case.

First up the lively fellow I had chatted with outside. “My Lord,” he says, “I am a member of the bar. I have my own cases to prepare. I can serve 2 weeks but longer may be a problem.” The Judge says in not so many words that, as a member of the legal profession, he knows how the system works. His excuse is not accepted.

I am not chosen.

Afterwards, we prospective jurors have a coffee table discussion. Eventually we get round to ‘What do you do?‘. One of our number says he can’t tell us; it’s top secret and he has to keep handing notes to various judges who then mysteriously dismiss him. We play guess his occupation. He won’t play ball. (I think he may be a spy.)

Into Court 15.

M’Lud calls for anyone with a problem to come forward. From somewhere behind me appears the ‘spy’, clutching his note which he hands to a court clerk to take to His Honour. We all watch the Judge with interest as he reads the note.

“Yes,” he says, “I think I need to show the barristers this.” Up they step to read it. “I am satisfied that this gentleman should not be considered for this jury. Do you agree?” he says to the barristers. “Yes M’Lud.” The spy is dismissed and instructed to leave the court.

WEDNESDAY

It is impossible to be a juror and disengage your emotions. Ours is a tragic story and we all, without exception, have become increasingly subdued as the story unfolds and, in one or two cases, quite upset.

THURSDAY

I held a murder weapon wrapped in protective plastic, learned the difference between various spatters of blood and listened to the graphic details of the findings of the pathologist’s post mortem. CSI this isn’t.

One thing’s for sure, being on a jury is an education.

If one could forget that she was talking about an actual incident (which I couldn’t) the forensic scientist from the Home Office was fascinating. She explained just exactly what DNA is and how they can form their deductions from it. She then guided us through our file of photographs and explained each blood spatter. She can tell which is impact blood and which is expirated blood.

The detective came with the transcript of her first major interview after the defendant had been charged. She read her part out and the junior prosecution barrister read all the others. This was quite lengthy and took us up to lunch time. Quite frankly, I have never heard a script in a TV drama that has come anywhere close.

The afternoon was taken up with the rest of the police transcript and then came the Home Office pathologist. He gave a detailed description of the post mortem, referring us to our graphic drawings of the deceased and then explained his findings. It wasn’t pleasant.

His Honour called it a day after that. It had been heavy going and our mood was sombre. One of the younger jurors was in tears.

I badly needed a drink and I was due to meet two friends for dinner. I desperately wanted to ‘download’ the case but I knew this wasn’t allowed. On the other hand I didn’t want to just go home. So I head out for the evening and find I am not the best company.

FRIDAY

Two psychiatrists today. One for the prosecution and one for the defence. They have both been involved at different stages of the story and ultimately they both agree. We are stood down for a two hour lunch break – the two opposing barristers want to have legal discussion. We think there is something in the air.

Back in Jury Assembly we all avidly discuss the case amongst ourselves. This being Friday, with the week’s cases in full swing, there are groups of jurors sticking together everywhere in deep discussion.

Wander out for a breath of fresh air. Camera crews everywhere. Someone says ‘the shoe bomber’ is about to be sentenced. After lunch, the defence barrister begins his case. The second psychiatrist is called. He takes us up to 3.00pm and once again M’Lud calls it a day. He addresses the jury, telling us to have a nice weekend and reports that the weather is going to be sunny. He then asks us to put the case out of our minds until Monday.

Is he kidding?

TUESDAY

It’s all over. A strange feeling of deflation. My fellow jurors and I have lived this case for the last few days – someone else’s life, the minutiae of someone else’s tragedy. And, when it came to it, we weren’t prepared for the sudden turn of events.

10.30 and we’re back in court. The Judge addresses us. The gist is this:

“Members of the Jury,” he says, “the prosecution and defence and I have been speaking since we saw you last and they have both put it to me that this charge should be one of manslaughter. I agree with them and therefore I propose to change the charge. I understand that the defendant is prepared to plead guilty to the charge of manslaughter and, having heard the circumstances of the case, I am satisfied that this is the appropriate charge and plea.”

Or words to that effect. I can sense that we are all relieved. From day one we have wondered why ours is a case of murder.

Next the formality. The Clerk of Court stands and asks our defendant to rise. Our defendant is formally charged with manslaughter and is asked how he pleads.

“Guilty’.”

As we now have a changed charge and a guilty plea there is no need for us to deliberate. But we were set the task of trying the case and must agree with the events that have taken place. The Judge formally requests the juror in seat 1 to stand and asks if we agree with the charge and the plea. On behalf of all of us she whispers: “Yes”.

She knows we all feel the same – we’ve discussed it often enough in Jury Assembly.

And that is our duty done.

As the defence had not had a chance to conclude their case, His Honour gives the defence barrister the floor to speak. And my, how he does. An impassioned speech. Questioning how and why it had ever come to a charge of murder.

A veiled criticism of the Crown Prosecution Service that had refused to accept a guilty plea to manslaughter to begin with, which would have negated the need for a trial. No criticism of our prosecution counsel. He was just doing his job. It had become apparent to us from the way he presented the Crown’s case that he was sympathetic. No rottweiler here.

The judge listened and commented that, despite all the defence had said, the laying out of the tragedy before the court had led everyone to conclude that this was the right outcome. Perhaps this had been for the best.

And so to M’Lud’s summing up.

He talked of the tragic circumstances of the defendant’s life that had led him to take another’s. He spoke of the family who must bear some of the responsibility, the shame and the blame. But, he said, the fact remained that to take a life is unlawful and a custodial sentence was the appropriate punishment. He was incredibly fair.

Four years. With time already served in custody and time off for good behaviour, he will be out in 18 months. What happens to him then I do not know…

So here was our case. A case where one man was responsible for another man’s death. A fact he did not deny and had not run from. A charge of murder. A plea of Not Guilty.

Here is what I have learned. Behind every murder is someone’s story.

Here was a story of a family where violence was commonplace. Of a weaker member of the family who didn’t fight back. Then one day he did. And in one almost inevitable moment he stabbed his brother. He got 4 years. It could have been life. Whichever way you look at it, it’s still a life sentence.

I have never seen such human despair. What must it be like to relive the moments that lead up to that one mad moment that turns your life? And to relive it in front of your family, your friends and twelve silent strangers sitting in judgement. We all saw the tears that wouldn’t stop flowing, the hands that covered ears, the head permanently bowed. Violence breeds violence it is said. The irony is our man was raised in a violent family culture but he had not been an aggressor. Until now. And, in all of this, Philip Larkin’s poem was never far from my mind: They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

After sentence is passed we file out. All of us subdued. Now, the mundane task of handing in our passes and papers. Time to say our goodbyes to eleven other people we hardly know, with whom we have shared an intensely emotional experience, and go back to our lives.

On the way out, two of us bump into our defence QC and his team. I ask him if he has become inured to tragedy – he must see it day after day. “No,” he said, “if you are human you don’t. And,” he said, “this was an unusual and particularly tragic case.”

“There’s nothing more real than real life,” says his junior barrister.

Indeed.

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How the English court system works (?)

The figure of Justice - blindfolded to avoid seeing any truths

The figure of Justice – blindfolded to avoid seeing any untruths – and truths

To save myself from having to write a blog today when all I want to do is sleep – the result of over three weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe – here is a blog about something which happened this week over ten years ago in England.

Someone I know was starting two weeks of Jury Service in a court somewhere in England. He told me:

Day One

None of us got picked today…. There was a lot of waiting around then they sent us all home… I ended up chatting with a right demographic mix, including… a 40-year-old grammar schoolboy self-made Tory-voting string-em-up merchant web designer; a local councillor very lefty with bleeding heart and social conscience (great arguments between those two!); an oldie female retired teacher; a young (22) ‘lad’ carpenter of some type; a young single mum from a council estate (“I dunno nuffink about politix”) and me…. And that was just the smokers!

The fault of the system is this… Most self-employed people don’t want to be there (big loss of earnings – it’s costing me a grand!!!). Most middle class with good jobs don’t want to be there. (They were all the ones moaning they had tried to get out of it )… So you are left with the unemployed, retired and immigrants whose first language definitely ain’t English…. But hey …That’s democracy! or is it?

Day Two

I got picked today…. Going into the court room was awe-inspiring… I had to remind myself this wasn’t telly…. Half my jury could barely read the affirmation. Then it was my turn, so I gave my best performance… and everyone after me then gave it a bit of welly too!

It is a nasty little case – GBH/drugs… Quite complicated too. We were sent home early – 3.30pm – as the two barristers needed to do a bit of thrashing things out. It is by no means cut and dried. My brain hurt at the end of the day.

Day Three

I went to see the trial myself.

A 20 year-old Bengali is accused of cutting the throat of another 20 year-old Bengali, exposing his windpipe. He is accused not of attempted murder but of GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm). His defence is that he was at home all evening. On the evening of the offence, the police came and broke down his door to find him on the phone (he was calling the police because someone was breaking down his door). There was blood on the stairs, the floor, his bedspread and his hand. He said he had cut his finger at college that afternoon.

Forensic DNA tests showed it was, indeed, all his blood and that none of his blood was at the murder scene, nor was any of the victim’s blood on the accused’s clothes. The victim said the accused man was a drug dealer and that he (the victim) hated drugs and drug dealers. Unfortunately for him, the defence knew he had been addicted to crack and heroin, was on methadone and had been convicted of manslaughter.

The prosecution produced two diaries found at the accused’s address which they claimed showed the accused was a drug dealer. Unfortunately, the defence pointed out one of the diaries was not in his handwriting and was partially in Bengali, a language he can neither read or write. The other diary, they contested, was the diary of a drug taker not a dealer – and the accused admitted he took drugs.

While the jury was out, the prosecutor told a detective there to give evidence: “If this guy gets off, it will seriously prejudice the whole case” and “The evidence fitted in better in the other trial”. The accused is related to a criminal Bengali family.

The jury comprised six blacks, one Asian Moslem and five whites. Three of the blacks, strangely, were Nigerians. My friend on the jury told me that one of the black women had arrived 20 minutes late that morning saying, quite unconcerned: “Oh, you could have started without me”.

Day Four

I went to the court again.

The judge gave a rambling colloquial summing up which non-native English speakers would have found unclear. After about two hours (around 4.30pm) the jury gave their verdict – partly because it was a Friday afternoon and, if they had not decided, then they would have had to continue on Monday and some of them were ‘second weekers’ – you are called to Jury Service for two weeks. If the final case runs over the two weeks, then you have to stay until it is concluded.

My friend told me that, when they went into the jury room, there were an initial six for Guilty, five were undecided and one wanted Not Guilty. My friend was the jury foreman. He went round the jury asking initially whether they thought the accused man was guilty. One woman asked: “Which one?” She had not been clear who had been on trial and thought perhaps he was the victim.

I am not going to say whether the jury found the accused man Guilty or Not Guilty.

You can toss your own coin.

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A rare case of British justice

Fifteen years ago today – in 1999 – I had to write a statement for a court about someone I knew who was standing trial for the second time over the same incident. He had been found guilty about a year before over something he had done, but had been given a very short sentence – something the police clearly considered too lenient. Now, over a year later, they had prosecuted him again on a more serious charge related to the same incident. This is the statement I wrote. I have changed his name to Harry Hardwicke (nothing like his real name) and have blanked-out some identifying details:

__________

I have known Harry Hardwicke for about 20 years. We worked together briefly at ***** in ***** then later at ***** in *****, ***** in ***** and ***** in *****. I have also known him personally over those years, when he had three separate long-term loving relationships, including his marriage. He has stayed friends with these ex-girlfriends. He has always been an outgoing person – ‘life and soul of the party’ is a phrase that could have been coined for Harry. I have seen him regularly but not often over the years – perhaps every three or four months so I can, perhaps more than most, see the changes in him.

When I visited ***** Open Prison where he was incarcerated for two months over the same incident he has now been charged with again, I was rather taken aback by the change I saw in Harry: he was extremely quiet and noticeably withdrawn. In my ignorance, I thought life in an open prison would be rather ‘cushy’. That was certainly not the case for him. The imprisonment and separation from his three children, on whom he dotes, had taken such a visible toll that I was shocked by the effect on him. He was also upset and concerned by his inability to be available should his mentally ‘delicate’ sister suffer one of her not-too-uncommon relapses. (Although no danger to anyone else, she has been in-and-out of mental institutions over the 20 years I have known Harry and he is, in effect, her only family member.)

As both Harry and I are British males born in the 1950s, confiding innermost thoughts to each other is not a normal thing except in extremis. But, in the months after his release from prison, he did frequently tell me in person and on the telephone how he had despaired in prison and the shame he felt as a result of having been imprisoned. He despaired to the extent of not wanting to see or be seen by anybody. I believe at one time he was almost suicidal with despair.

He seemed to be coming out of this depression in the last few months of 1998 – before this case reared its head again. He had only just started to pick up the threads of his life and his career which would certainly be broken again should he be imprisoned once more.

Two very visible effects the ***** Open Prison sentence had on his personality was to damage his normally reliable work – his concentration on release was affected by depression – and to devastatingly damage his relationship with his long-term girlfriend. His severe depression and abnormal introversion caused a very painful breakup in the relationship though they have since slowly and successfully patched things up.

Harry is petrified of going to prison again, petrified by shame and embarrassment at the effect his actions have had on his children and on the relationship in which he puts so much hope. I believe he has already suffered disproportionately for his admitted crime – certainly way beyond the intention of his original sentence.

Should his character be broken again by imprisonment, I have no doubt that these additional strains could be nothing but devastatingly harmful to his long-term relationship, enormously destabilising for his children, abnormally destructive to his career and totally destabilising for his mental condition.

__________

Harry received a conditional discharge. A rare case of justice in the UK.

* * *

A couple of weeks after I wrote the above, I found out it was factually incorrect. For the real outcome, see HERE.

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The English legal system? It is “Britain’s Got Talent” for liars and spin-masters

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

The figure of Justice - blindfolded to avoid seeing any truths

English Justice – blindfolded and blind

Tomorrow, I start jury service for an unknown length of time.

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows my opinion of the English judicial system in which the defendant is assumed to be guilty unless he or she can afford to buy a good enough lawyer to get themselves found innocent – with a lot of luck.

The police investigate. The courts then prosecute the person whom the police have found to be guilty and whom the Director of Public Prosecutions’ office has agreed is guilty. The defendant is assumed in advance to be guilty.

The judge and jury do not investigate the facts. That has already been done by the police. The jury are there to decide whether the prosecutor or defence lawyer presents a better case. The truth is neither here nor there. The jury is voting in a competitive talent show between two highly-trained and highly-paid liars… erm, lawyers… who are trying to advance their own careers.

The State pays the prosecutor to get a guilty verdict and to hide any evidence which may imply or prove the defendant is innocent. The defending lawyer is paid to get his client found innocent and to hide any evidence which may imply or prove he is guilty.

The result is that a jury does not decide on the actual facts; they are voting on the presentation skill of the spin. It is Britain’s Got Talent for rhetoricians. The most professional and admired lawyers are the ones who win cases they do not believe in.

And you take pot luck on the jury members.

Back in July 2011, I blogged about a friend of mine who had recently done jury service.

After all the evidence was given and after the jury had been deliberating for a while, one of the jury members asked:

“Which one is the accused?”

When she was told which person was actually on trial, she asked:

“Wasn’t the other bloke accused?”

“No,” she was told by my friend, “he was the chief prosecution witness.”

“Oh,” the other jury member replied, “I thought they were both on trial.”

Last week, I talked to someone else who had been on a jury.

He told me the person on trial was clearly guilty but one member of the jury voted Not Guilty. My friend and everyone else on the jury had voted Guilty. But my friend’s eyes met this other juror’s eyes and, as he explained to me last week, there was an unspoken understanding between them.

My friend changed his verdict to Not Guilty.

He and the other person set out to change the other jurors’ decisions. It was a game for them. And they succeeded. Eventually, the jury came to a unanimous Not Guilty verdict.

I am not, of course, allowed to blog about what happens if and when I am part of a jury.

So, instead, before this jury thing starts tomorrow, I asked someone else I know – an  ex-criminal – about jury-nobbling.

He gave me two examples.

In one case, a member of a jury was trying a case involving a very high-profile chap who, unsurprisingly, did not want to go to prison.

When one of the jury members got home after a day listening to evidence, shortly before the trial ended, there was a knock on his door in the middle of the evening. When he opened the door, a man was standing there.

The man said: “I’ve been told you’re on the jury and I’ve been asked to give you this envelope,” and left.

Inside the envelope was a photograph, taken that morning, of the jury member’s young daughter in the playground of her school.

There was no physical threat of any kind, but that jury member was perhaps more inclined to find the defendant innocent.

My acquaintance also told me of another occasion he knew about in which a trial was nobbled, this time by the police.

“The police thought he was going to get off,” I was told about another career criminal. “A copper talked loudly about some of the guy’s previous convictions so that a couple of jury members overheard him and the trial had to be abandoned. The guy was found guilty at the re-trial.”

As I mentioned in a blog in February 2011, my own inclination on a jury would be to vote Not Guilty in any case which relies solely on a policeman’s evidence.

A partner in a major London law firm told me he would never put a Metropolitan Police officer in the witness stand without corroborating evidence because you could never be certain a Met officer was telling the truth.

Likewise, the owner of a prominent detective agency who employs ex-SAS troopers etc, told me he never employs ex-policemen because you can never trust them.

The story of the framing by West Yorkshire Police of Stefan Kiszko, his trial and his wrongful imprisonment for 16 years should be taught to every schoolkid in the UK.

It is an illustration of the inherent corruption of the police and of the English court system.

Frankly, you might as well settle court cases by bringing back Trial By Combat.

It would provide equal injustice and be more entertaining.

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Now comedians will let me justifiably laugh at the amoral English legal system

The English legal system – blindfolded to avoid seeing truth, justice or facts.

Any long-term reader of this blog will know my limitless contempt for the English legal system where the police investigate, the state pays to prosecute the person whom the police have found on investigation to be guilty, the defendant is presumed by the state to be guilty unless he/she can pay for a good enough legal eagle and the jury decide not on the defendant’s innocence or guilt but on the relative presentation skills of the prosecution and defence lawyers spinning selected facts to them.

The system is laughable.

So I was particularly interested to get invited to This Is Your Trial on Wednesday this week.

The idea is that a trial is set up with three comedians as the judge, prosecutor and defence counsel. The audience is the jury.

The accused is presumed guilty unless proven innocent. Just like the real thing.

On Wednesday, the accused will be legal blogger Charon QC, aka Mike Semple Piggot. The judge will be comedian Norman Lovett, the prosecutor Luke Capasso and fighting for the defence will be Bob Slayer.

On that basis, I think Charon QC should simply plead guilty.

I am a bit vague about what the charges actually are, but Bob Slayer tells me: “We are being brave enough to road test it in front of a paying audience of real lawyers.”

The gig has sold out.

A bit like English lawyers, then.

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Comedy critic Copstick on the drunken rape victim and the convicted footballer

Kate Copstick thinks the victim was not necessarily innocent

Comedy critic Kate Copstick is out in Nairobi at the moment. She wrote about her work there in this blog a couple of months ago.

She runs a charity – Mama Biashara – which helps HIV positive Kenyan women to set up small businesses, thus making them financially independent. She wants, she says, “to give them a hand up, not just a hand out.”

But she has been keeping in touch with what has been happening back in Britain and has sent me the thoughts below. The thoughts she fearlessly expresses here are hers.

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Yet again, as I skirt those strange little rivers  with the iridescent  scum and the unmistakable smell that run through most slum areas in the wet season, as I sit with another group of women for whom abuse is as much a part of their day as is hunger, despair and worry for their children, I feel  the rage bubbling up like a serious case of acid indigestion.

Back in Britain, some idiot Welsh twat – 19 or 20 depending on which rag’s clichés you read – went out, got absolutely shit-faced, went to a hotel room with some footballers and shagged. Only she says she can’t remember it. And  they end up in court charged with rape and now one of them is in jail for five years. No violence, no suggestion that anyone poured intoxicating substances down her poor unwilling throat. 

If she had got that drunk and hit someone, then her drunkenness would not be a defence. If she had driven a car and crashed it she would have been committing a crime. But she didn’t. She lay down and got shagged. And suddenly she is the innocent victim. She was too drunk. She doesn’t remember. She couldn’t have consented. If he claimed the same thing … no, can’t see it would establish his ‘innocence’.

I studied law. In Glasgow. Scots Law is based on Principles – like justice, fairness … It comes from the fine heritage of Roman Law. In that law there is something called a Res Nullius. It is something which has been abandoned.  Deliberately or negligently abandoned. It belongs to no-one. Because its erstwhile owner has – deliberately or negligently – abandoned it. It cannot be ‘stolen’. Because it has been abandoned. It cannot be ‘criminally damaged’. Because its owner has given it up. It cannot be raped.

OK, I have had some pretty indiscriminating sex with some pretty indiscriminating people. There is not much fun to be had from shagging a girl who is off her face on something plentiful and probably vodka-based. But surely it does not amount to one of the worst crimes on the statute book?

The women I work with have plenty to complain about. But they don’t. And no-one speaks for them. Maybe some of those who shout so loudly about the rights of stupid girls, well over the age of consent, to incapacitate themselves, make their way into what is blindingly obviously a sexual situation and then be treated like a priceless Dresden china doll should consider that they are not the ones in need of help, rights-wise.

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Filed under Drink, Kenya, Legal system, Sex