Thursday, March 23, 2006

Court Guide Part 2 - actually in the courtoom

Very occasionally, sitting around in the waiting area for hours, dying of boredom, actually results in an officer having to take the stand and testify. This helps counter the widely-held conspiracy theory that the CPS conspire with the defendants to call officers in on rest days at 9.45am and keep them there for hours, at which point the defendants, acting on some sort of secret signal, plead guilty 4 hours later, making the officer's attendance a singular waste of time.

So, here's a few do's and don'ts for those who actually end up testifying:


Face the bench when answering questions - specifically, the people on the bench rather than the physical bench itself

Address the magistrates as "Your Worship" and not "Your Majesty" as has allegedly happened once

Answer the question exactly as stated - nothing more, nothing less

Speak slowly and clearly - the court clerk has to note your answers and often can't write as quickly as you speak!

Refer to your Pocket Note Book if you feel it necessary. Also ask to see your statement before you go in the court as well.


Look at the lawyer when answering questions - the lawyer is addressing the questions to you through the court, so you should direct your answers to him accordingly

Elaborate on answers - answer what is required. The more you say, the more material you're giving the defence to cross-examine you with

Laugh at stupid questions - you'll then be asked what's so funny and risk saying "Your Worship, I was laughing the the defence's pathetic attempt to make out that the defendant did not see me or my colleagues in spite of us being 3 feet away from him in yellow conspicuity jackets and Custodian helmets on a well-lit street at night", which doesn't sound good!

Care enough about the case to start trying to do the prosecution lawyers work - it's their job to prosecute the case, and your role is just to answer the questions and cross-examinations. If they win, great, if not, it's not your fault (generally). You've done your bit!

Start launching into tirades about how heinous the crime is and/or your belief that the defendant and their ilk should be strung up 'cos it's the only language them bleedin' bastards understand.

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Certain defending solicitors have picked up terms heard on TV drama programmes and during their questioning they say something along the lines of "I put it to you that you are mistaken"

What really winds them up is when you don't answer. They then ask you if you heard the question, to which I reply "You made a statement, you didn't ask a question."

Gets their goat every time!
A (police) friend of mine gave evidence in a court presided over by a stipendiary magistrate, having been advised beforehand to address her as 'Madam'. Much to the amusement of his colleagues who had already been on the stand and were now sitting in the courtroom, he came out with 'Your Madamship'.
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