So I am now a member of a jury at the High Court. This feels ridiculously grown up. There are fifteen of us, a motley crew, names drawn at random out of a glass bowl. The Clerk to the Court is a delightful fellow who addresses us as “youse” and we are looked after by a lady named after a flower. She likes us to get there early “so you can dry off and have a cup of tea”.
We are not allowed to talk about anything to do with the case now or ever as far as I can gather so I am taking careful note of the procedures in court so that I can at least get them right in my next court scene. No wonder lawyers like being lawyers. They need so many of them. The court is packed with lawyers, lawyer’s juniors, and usually a third member of the team as well. The prosecution is led by the Crown Advocate Depute who, quite frankly, looks ridiculously young for such an important role. He has a junior as well. It’s interesting that evidence is still produced on paper even in these days of ipads. Huge piles of files and photocopies all over the place. We get to see some evidence on a screen but mostly we struggle with piles of copies, delivered to us by the Macer.
The Judge is a kindly chap who reassures and encourages the jury. We are to “keep an open mind” as we have not heard all the evidence yet. Even in the dining room we are not allowed to talk about the case which makes for rather desultory conversation as we all concentrate on not mentioning the war. Excellent lentil soup today and sandwiches. Tomorrow one of the lunch choices is chilli con carne. I didn’t dare order that in case it made me rush to the loo. Be warned the court sits between 10-1 and then 2-4 often without a break so go easy on the liquid intake. You CAN raise your hand and ask for a comfort break but that means stopping the whole proceedings and who wants to do that?
Lining up in order of number to go back into the court feels like being backstage. I am so glad I have no lines to forget. I scribble notes like mad but since these are locked away in the safe at night, I have no opportunity to ponder them. And with my memory, the facts of the case tend to melt like snow.
I’m surprised how slowly the Crown proceeds with the prosecution. There is a great deal of pausing, coughing, pausing and blowing of the nose in between remarks and questions. Oh and pacing, I must remember pacing. Apparently the accused are not obliged to produce a defence. The whole burden of proof is on the prosecution.
I had expected a more victorian Court but it is very modern and streamlined. Disappointing. Comfy seats though which is just as well as it is not easy to concentrate for such long periods of time. It’s a strange world out of the world, both fascinating and terrifying, boring and tedious. Watch this space!