Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Inside the courts

I guess I'd better not say too much about where and when, in case it gives me the chance to write in even more detail about the justice system in England. So, imagine whatever details you like which lead me to be standing in the witness box giving evidence.

The usher holds up a piece of card in front of me and I say that ‘I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’

The usher then sits back down at his substantial desk, below the judge and out of sight of the 3 barristers.

One of the barristers tries to confuse me with dates. It's easily done - soon I am shuffling through great files in response to a query about whether something happened before something else. I am the sort of person who forgets what I'm meant to be doing tomorrow.

This followed by attempts to get me to go too far. "Would it be your opinion that..." This one wasn't so hard to deal with. In each case I was able to respond along the lines of "that would be the expertise of the clinical psychologist" or "social services are the lead agency in cases like this, my role is to help them when asked."

Finally, an attempt is made for me to agree that x=y. "Would you say that [an example of a child playing] means that [a particular thing has happened to the child]". Of course the answer is no. Though I did get the opportunity to add that it is rather worrying.

I was in the stand from after lunch, to the end of the session.

For the first few minutes the usher seemed to be wriggling uncomfortably and fiddling with her fingers under the big desk.

Slowly, without noise, she was able to spread Take a Break out on her lap. She did a little wordsearch or Sudoku first and then she read through several of the features, managing to turn the pages without a sound or a suspicious movement. To be fair to her, after the affirmation and before "all rise" there wasn't a great deal to do, apart from make sure on one occasion that I was looking at the correct file (I wasn't).

Later a friend remarked that the stories in Take a Break are probably similar to the events I was recounting.