Secret E-Diary

To stay or to go has its courtroom equivalent

‘It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.’ – Thomas Sowell


And so it is all over. We are going. Or are we? Perhaps we should have monthly referenda on all major issues, voting on our smartphones, and ditch the idea of a representative legislature altogether. Chambers was as stunned by the result as the country. It was hardest for the Twist brothers, of course. Always wishing to be on the winning side, they hovered and bothered between remaining and leaving until their very souls were stretched like old chewing gum.

Others took up their positions from the start and never varied. Paddy Corkhill was in the Remain camp, to general surprise. It was something to do with duty-free allowances that I never entirely understood. The most vociferous Leaver was Hetty Briar-Pitt. She had no concerns about free movement of labour, immigration or the democratic deficit. She had, however, read a report into the conditions suffered by certain livestock during their entirely captive Schengen experience. With tears in her eyes, she begged us to leave, although I was somewhat lost as to how this would actually benefit the animals. I kept my peace. I remembered a group of us going to see a digitally re-mastered version of The Wicker Man several years ago only to have her stand up in the final scene, not to be bemoan the fate of Edward Woodward, about to be burned to death in the wooden man at the terrifying hands of an insane Christopher Lee, but to support the creatures who were ritualistically going to suffer the same fate. ‘The poor animals, the poor animals!’ she shouted, ‘why are they doing it?’ And then, with a touch of the macabre, added: ‘I bet they’re really doing it to them; not like him.’

Whilst voting myself, I reflected that crime fills any available vacuum and we would still have the benefit of using the European Court of Human Rights either way, possibly puzzling those politicians who still seemed to believe it was some organ of the EU. But for those whose jobs, pensions, benefits and futures did possibly depend on the decision, I hope they asked both campaigns exactly what compensation was on offer from them personally if whichever option they suggested fouled up.

After voting, I toddled along to court, where my client in a murder case had to decide whether or not to give evidence in his own defence. The prosecution case was largely circumstantial but not completely watertight. Sitting it out would concentrate the jury’s mind on any deficiencies in the case against him. On the other hand, there are those adverse inferences, uneasily sitting with the principle that a decision not to give evidence is a free choice that one is perfectly entitled to make. The weasel nature of those words is immediately apparent when the jury hears that the decision not to give evidence is called ‘a failure’ and all sorts of thoughts are put into jurors’ minds as to the likely causes of this failure: no conceivable answer or none that would stand up to the fair but searching cross-examination of prosecuting counsel.

However, the inescapable truth is that my client would be simply dreadful in the box. It is not evidence of guilt but he has a way of expressing himself that would cause deep irritation in the calmest and most dispassionate of listeners. He also entertains ludicrous notions of who really killed his late worst enemy and why he was being ‘fitted-up’ for it by a bent police force. And he has an unfortunate habit of licking his lips whenever he is asked a difficult question.

We talked and talked. Remain silently in the dock? Leave it and give evidence? All sorts of good and bad arguments discussed for either course. He asked me to decide for him. I politely declined. He asked me how he should decide. I told him to imagine being convicted. If he could bear life imprisonment not ever having given evidence, then my advice would be to stay where he was. If not, he should take the walk. He looked at me very hard and said: ‘You talk really well. You remind me of that Michael Gove; but I’ll go with my gut.’ He stayed firmly anchored where he was in the dock and, based on his subsequent acquittal, we must have persuaded at least ten jurors that the evidence, deeply suspicious as it appeared, was not quite sufficient. One Remainer, then, who profited by his choice.

William Byfield Gutteridge Chambers. William Byfield is the pseudonym of a senior member of the Bar. Gutteridge Chambers, and the events that happen there, are entirely fictitious.

 

 

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