31.10.06

Day 21 (week 5): Spineless

The Boss is spineless. He is a yellow coward of the very worst kind. He is a greedy, self-serving scum of the earth parasite who would even give his profession a bad name. He has so little spine that were it not for his starched barrister wing collar, I don’t know how he’d manage to stand up.

It was a criminal case today. They don’t settle. They are a matter of justice one way or the other. The Crown against a particular private individual The state enforcing the laws. The defender arriving and exercising the right to a fair trial. Innocent until proven guilty and all of that. Even plea bargains don’t exist in this country.

Or so I thought. However, I under-estimated even the Boss’ ingenuity in this respect. For once he was at court an hour early. Met up with the client for the first time (two minutes) then with the reconstruction expert (three minutes). Then he was off "to talk to his opponent". I tagged along despite his look of irritation at my doing so. However, in hindsight I realise that it would have looked suspicious if he’d actually asked me not to accompany him, again the usual practice. It was for this reason only that I was once again privy to what I am beginning to believe, no do believe, is a scandal.

The two barristers took themselves away from the rest of the crowd (save for me) and then started chatting. Turns out that the prosecutor used to go out with a particular member of our own Chambers who the Boss does not get on with. Well, that led to a good quarter of an hour’s worth of cruel gossip at her expense. Then it was down to business. "Any chance of reducing it to careless if we were to plead guilty?" "Unlikely, but I could run it past them. Why? Is that an offer?" "Well, I don’t have any instructions but I’m sure I could bring him round to see sense if that was on offer." "OK. I’ll make the call."

Ten minutes later, the prosecutor had called the file handler at the CPS who very reluctantly had agreed to reduce the charge, "in return for me buying her dinner this evening" he smirked. "It’ll give me the rest of the day off which I could do with, actually. Quite a heavy weekend. Just got back from skiing."

That was all the Boss needed. Straight back to the client. Explained the risks of putting this in front of a jury. "Notoriously unpredictable", he said. "Not that I don’t think you’ve got a strong case. You have. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been fighting. But if you can in any way manage that risk before you enter that courtroom, I think we at least have to consider it." The client was, to say the least, reluctant. He had been advised by the last barrister that the case against him was hopeless. "I entirely agree", the Boss said, as he stepped up his settle mode a notch further. "It’s why I would never advise you to pleading guilty to the charge made. However, even if there’s a ten per cent chance that you get yourself in front of a rogue jury – and I’m afraid they do exist – well. It’s your call and I wouldn’t like to seem like I’m trying to persuade you one way or the other…" "…However, if the charge were merely careless driving, the most you’re likely to get is a six month ban. On the other hand, a rogue jury and you’re possibly looking at packing your toothbrush."

This was simply beyond the pale. The man was innocent, of that I was absolutely sure. The other side’s reconstruction report was a shambles and I’m not surprised that the Boss’ opponent was prepared to reduce the charge. It shouldn’t even have got anywhere near the courtroom. I do not pretend to hold myself to the highest of standards and I do not think have the na├»ve illusions of the Bar that many people may possess. However, even discounting for my already jaded image of the profession, I was ashamed.

Needless to say, it settled. Client only got a two month ban, probably reflecting the fact that the Judge had also read the papers and didn’t think the client was guilty either. The terrible irony of this was that the client left the court raving about how great his "brief" was and how he’d recommend him to all his mates. And to cap it, the Boss left muttering sarcastically, "Yeh, because I so want to build up a criminal hack’s practice".

Back in Chambers by noon. Brief fee, £2,500. Boss away for the rest of the afternoon.

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