All was peace and calm at Dulux Towers, preparing Seed Sensation toast, two slices, and a couple of boiled eggs for a gentle breakfast before another round of slapping and nicking cases at the Coryton Palais de Justice. The quiet only corrupted by mumblings of the BBC Breakfast Show and a coughing pigeon. The recognised clatter of the letter box disturbs my reverie and drew me away from the vision, and my thoughts, of Ms Carol of Kirkwood, oh how I have gained such an interest in warm fronts and other such meteorological terms in recent years. I face the usual bundle of envelopes comprising bills, congratulations from the pen of a direct seller as to my potential winnings, if I were to subscribe to “What” immediately, and the Law Society Gazette. The Gazette is required reading for all those who haven’t kept up with the legal news online or thinking of sideways shifting their employment situation. Then the discomfort hit home, a crisp white envelope with handwriting, I recognise as, belonging to Delores Watson. I didn’t have to open the envelope to know what was contained inside; it was that time of the year again.
Mrs Watson’s highlight of the year was to invite a “select” group of guests to her bonfire night soiree. An evening billed as full of merriment which consisted of a pathetic bonfire near the compost heap, a few supermarket fireworks then drinks and a finger buffet. Each year I always feel obliged to accept her invitation though, by the 6th of November I promise myself “never again”. These events are tedious in the extreme full of small talk and feet itching to get the hell out. There was the single highlight, once, of Percy Watson, Mrs Watson’s then 15 year old son who vomited into the fish pond having liberated a bottle of red plonk from the drinks cabinet earlier that evening. Concealed mirth vied with shaking of heads and uttered words of concern as to young Percy’s welfare. Mrs Watson was mortified but assured the assembled guests that the incident was fault of a nasty dose of salmonella connected with a meal of chicken and cashew from the local takeaway. The events of that night kept chattering tongues busy at WI meetings in the scout hut in South Coryton for weeks after, giving much relief to Mrs Delaware, whose son was sent down from Oxford within days of the new term, rumours of an incident with a barmaid had failed to be confirmed. In any event the focus shifted from Master Delaware to Master Watson for a while.
It’s not the repeat attendees that fill me with dread, its Mrs Watson’s efforts to introduce fresh blood on the guest list each year. It’s these that I wish to avoid. You may think that the chance of meeting new, potentially interesting, people may the very reason why I should RSVP with unbridled confirmation. However I am a lawyer and, worse still, a defender of those suspected of criminal offences as such I am a target.
If you are ever to clink glasses with me at the annual torture fest I ask you, nicely at first, not to invite me to espouse legal pronouncements as to your various legal problems. I really don’t want to go into the concept of self help when dealing with your neighbour’s leylandii trees nor consider attacking a will made by your maternal grandmother who departed some three years previously. Firstly, I don’t ask you to open up shop and pop round to Dulux Towers to fix that annoying drip in the bathroom sink, nor instantly shin up a ladder to install a satellite dish. I recognise that not only don’t you want to work for free but are here to socialise not ply your trade so why should I? Additionally I, quite often, won’t know the answer to your particular point so don’t ask me to apply s25 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 to your situation, get yourself off to a divorce lawyer and even pay the fees, he will tell you whether you are entitled to contact with the family moggie or not; advice to go for a 50/50 division, lengthwise, was not happily accepted.
The sin of all sins is to ask me the trite question “What happens if you know they did it?”, the question can take various forms but the answer is always the same. Perhaps I ought to prepare a typed sheet and hand it out each time it is asked. If I did, it would be along these lines:
“I represent a client; I am not the decider of fact that is a matter for a Jury or Magistrate. The client gives me instructions and I help him to get his side over in Court. Part of my role is to advise as to the strength of evidence; if it is strong I say so. Even with overwhelming evidence, if the client still denies the offence, I will continue defending him in the hope that there is an acquittal.
If the client admits the offence then the situation changes; I will not allow him to give evidence protesting innocence, which would entail misleading the Court. I would be able to test the prosecution case to make sure there is enough to convict and I would look for any gaps in the evidence, it’s what I do. If the client wants me to forget that he admitted the offence so he can perjure himself or get me to mislead the Court, I will decline and invite him to seek alternative representation. I would have already advised as to the credit he would obtain when being sentenced after a Guilty plea.
As for why I represent alleged murders, muggers of old ladies, abusers etc,. All suspects are entitled to a defence/representation. If society picks and chooses who is represented then we are commencing along a slippery path that I would not like to travel.
Loopholes you ask? Yes I look for them, it is my job, I will look for gaps in evidence and lacunas in the law and use them to the best of my ability and go as far as my professional ethics allow.”
Now where was I? Ah yes breakfast. Now, having been distracted, I am off to feast on burnt toast, 2 slices, and hard boiled eggs. I must remember to post my RSVP acceptance on the way to court.