Friday, November 19, 2010

Jury Service - Part One

So, I've been called up for jury service. AGAIN. The first time was about 10 years back and involved a road-rage case. In summary, guy A got angry with guy B's driving which nearly caused guy A to crash his car. Guy A got out and attacked guy B. Guy B's momma came out to break it up or maybe even attack guy A too, who knows. Then guy A kicked guy B's momma.

Quite a ruckus indeed. Anyway, he went down. Just. On a majority vote.

I was the only one of the 12 jurors to go for not guilty. Although that was due to the charge itself and not for the assault. The charge was Racially Aggravated Assault. And the evidence for the racial slur at the start of the altercation was simply his word against the others. The prosecution lawyer was pretty amateur though. I'm wondering if it was him who chose that charge and not just a straight assault?

In fact, i forgot to mention we were one juror short on that case cos one lady decided to JET OFF ON HOLIDAY DURING THE CASE.  Apparently she had booked it before her jury summons but didn't tell anyone. She was supposed to let the court people know so that she isn't put on any long cases or they could defer it to another date. But NOOOO she decides to come in, start a case she knew she would walk away from in the middle. 

The judge explained to us he didn't stop her going as he didn't want anyone on jury service that wasn't going to do it properly. And i think i recall her using her headphones in court too. Some african lady with poor english.

Anyway. That was in the lovely Southwark Crown Court. This time I'm in the disgusting Inner London Crown Court near Elephant and Castle. It is so shit. No TV. Cramped seating. Vending machine doesn't work. The toilets remind me of the type you see at a boys-only secondary school. The court rooms themselves are tiny too.

And then there's the surrounding area. Piss shit. Road works all over the place. Dirty cafe's everywhere. Hoodies at every street corner.

First day arrives and i'm ten minutes late. Wasn't a problem though. It started with some boring lectures about the whole process and rules and regulations, plus a boring video. They also mentioned that you can't go out for smoke breaks in case your name gets called on a case. Those poor bastard smokers couldn't smoke in between approx 9.45am - 1pm and 2 - 4pm. And with nothing to occupy them while they wait for a case, must have been difficult for some. Having said that, I did smell a strange odour in the toilets. A mix of shit and smoke if i had it correct. I can tell you now, those two do NOT go well together.

They explained if anyone is finding it difficult being smoke-less for so long, they may come to the office to get some patches. But i guess most just did it on the shitter.

Anyway, so we had to just wait til your name is one of the randomly chosen ones to go on a case. Cases start quite regularly. Every half hour or so.

So i sat back, got my laptop out and browsed Facebook and Twitter. All the while, i'm getting fully paid by work. Pretty cushty. Internet access was £5 per 90 mins. Or £25 per week. Fucking rip offs. But no i didn't pay for it. I used a clever little function on Android phones called tethering which allows me to use my phones internet access. 

Lunch time arrives and they pay £5.71 per day for food. They put it on a smart card and you can use it in the building canteen or go eat outside and claim back the accrued amount on the smart card at the end of your jury service.

I was called on to a case shortly after lunch. They choose 15 people and pick 12 people randomly from within the courtroom (the other 3 are reserves in case the defence reject one of the jurors for one reason or another).

It was some long-arse walk to the court! Go down the corridor, down those stairs, and those. Then down that corridor, turn right, the left, then right, go down the corridor, then up those stairs.

One of the 15 was this really old guy, musta been late 60's (the upper age limit for jurors is 69 - interesting choice of number). He has a massive hunchback. Everyone just stares at him everywhere he goes, mainly at wonder how he manages to get around cos he literally at a right angle while he stands. At the top of the final set of stairs he tripped and fell over. Not too bad though.

As we get inside the courtroom, there were only 14 seats available at the back. I was the 14th one to get in. I think, shit. I turn around to see who's behind me cos i remember it was the old hunchback guy. So i let him take the seat even though i was tempted to facepalm him and claim it for myself. He's a right angle anyway, how's he gonna sit down on a chair?

But no, i stayed stood up whilst they picked 12 random names, one of them being mine, and walked my way to grab a seat in the jury section. An end seat. I had no idea what a saviour that was gonna be later on. Having one side free to stretch legs and arms. 

The judge was a rather MILFish looking south asian lady. Her eloquence would even challenge the Queen herself. She KNEW she was the boss though. She'd occasionally snap at lawyers (but not in a bitchy way) for wasting time. She briefly explained the charge and the procedures of the court and the case started right away with the prosecution introducing the main details of the case which i will describe in tomorrows blog entry.

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