Saturday, 17 March 2012

A day in court - real life drama

By Joanna Matwiejczyk, @jo_mat14

On Thursday 1 March, instead of sitting in what should have been my university lecture, I was eagerly perched on the edge of my seat watching my first court case; a fine substitute I’d admit. It was as though an episode of ‘Law and Order’ was being re-enacted before my very eyes.

Waiting for the case to commence, I attempted to act as professional as possible. Cue: pen behind the ear, notebook in hand and reading glasses out. Admittedly the most cliché image of a journalism student.

As the solicitors filed in and took their places, the case began; the matter in hand being attempted rape. With the accused sitting a mere few metres from me, I subconsciously couldn’t help but feel perturbed.

An abrasion was sustained to the left knee, the left fore-arm sustained bruising, superficial abrasions on the right shoulder…” – the solicitor talk shook me hard and the seriousness of the case was beginning to sink in. I was not here merely to review first-hand the structure of a court case, but also to review the likes of the justice system.

Having had 3 witnesses called to the stand, the typical ex-wife, neighbour and girlfriend of the accused, the drama of it all was an aspect I wouldn’t have predicted before-hand.

Amid the sophisticatedly robed solicitors and stoic facial expressions around the room, it was easy to feel out of place, says the girl with her loud red hair and shabby vintage outfit.

Nevertheless, I had attracted interest from the solicitors during the break, all of whom were extremely welcoming and willing to strike up a conversation.

Throughout the case, as I was observing the court room, it was evident that a trend of receding hairlines was a popular one. What I once believed to be a court room myth has in fact been confirmed.

A further bemusing aspect was the confusion of when or whether to stand, or not to stand? To bow, or not to bow? To openly drink a can of fanta, or to silently suffer in dehydration? The many complications of a court room.

Furthermore, what struck me was how normal the jury looked. I was expecting burly business men and top hats (or perhaps wishing they’d wear top hats). In reality, it was as though they’d picked up a group of people from the local bus stop.

I had also come to realise that court cases are not as straightforward as I had previously presumed due to the amount of evidence to sift through, including phone recordings and doctor’s statements.

The atmosphere was tense and the approach, professional till the end. Day 1 of court was completed, and I felt exhilarated from the experience. No doubt I’ll be back for more.

Copyright remains with the author.

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