Saturday, 25 November 2006

The Master

I actually met my pupilmaster properly yesterday and had a good chat. I´d only met him once before, at Medway County Court earlier in the week, and he was pretty busy that day with the hearing, the renewal of some interim care orders in a sex and drugs child neglect care case.

I´m not doing too well so far with the whole terminology and deference thing, so I´ve decided to try and go the whole hog and get into character (possibly Uriah Heep) by thinking of him as The Master.

Yesterday we met at Snaresbrook Criminal Court. I was running slightly late as I´d had to go into chambers first to drop off some stuff in order to make a swift getaway later on for a long weekend away, my train had been delayed on the way in and then my Oyster card wasn´t working and I had to get a new one sorted out at Chancery Lane. Great timing and I wonder how often the things break down like that.

He got me a coffee to start with and talked me through the case, a public interest immunity hearing where a social services department had been asked to disclose various documents in a criminal case that might be relevant to the outcome of the case, for example by providing evidence of past dishonesty and so on. These situations often involve pretty unpleasant sexual offences, and this case certainly fitted that mould. Essentially, the relevant social services department instruct a barrister, who then flags up any documents that he or she thinks might conceivably be relevant to the case, usually to the defence case. The barrister then talks the trial judge through the documents and anything the judge considers relevant will be disclosed through a witness summons. The barrister who flagged the documents up will then argue against disclosure. All of this takes place ´in camera´, in a closed hearing alone with the judge. The process is necessary as the documents are all confidential documents with detailed personal information that social services aren´t permitted to disclose without a summons.

The criminal barristers for the CPS and the defence in this instance knew virtually nothing about the case and were standing in for the actual trial barristers. The trial itself is due in April 2007. The Master had written in to the senior clerk or whatever they are called at Snaresbrook to ask for a two hour hearing. The letter had been ignored or binned and the judge only had half an hour before having to resume a part heard trial. This meant that there wasn´t time for a proper hearing. This in turn means that The Master and the social worker will have to return to court on another day, as will barristers for the prosecution and defence and the same trial judge, all at quite some expense.

The Master then spent quite some time in the robing room talking me through how to fix the detachable collars that are necessary for any gown ´n´ wig work, with some useful pointers like how to transport and store the wig and flappy white tie things, carrying spare studs and so on. We drove into chambers then went for lunch at the Inn (more on Inns of Court if I ever get around to doing a terminology section), and he revealed that in his spare time he writes soft rock and pop music.

Now, I firmly believe that everyone should have what Denis Healey called a ´hinterland´, an area of interest outside one´s main occupation. He was talking about politicians but it surely has universal application. A significant part of The Master´s seems to be writing soft rock. Mainly ballads by the sounds of things. He also disclosed that he is 52 and he dances around the house with his guitar as part of the creative process.

He´s quite a character.

1 comment:

Batgirl said...

In regards to The Inns, I would be very interested to see how you'd define them. I tend to resort to baffling the enquirer with historical stuff that has very little current day application in the hopes that they give up and go away. Heh.

Enjoying the blog, btw, it's interesting to see how these things work.