Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Statistics - not just a number....

I am sitting in my study snowed under with work - preparing my cross examination for tomorrow and so I really should not be sneaking time to type postings on my blog, however brief. And sadly (or perhaps happily for those who have to read my missives) this will indeed be brief as I have justified to myself this indulgence on the basis that it is a short and refreshing break from the cerebral intensity that cross examination preparation sometimes demands of me!

I have found myself unusually buoyed in the exhaustive and determined focus that I find critical cross examination preparation exacts from this mortal mind, and suddenly found myself wondering what this unusual happy excitement might be? And when I stopped to think about it, I knew immediately that these happy feelings cruising alongside my thoughts about my work were about my blog! I have always been passionate about everything I decide to do, and my blog is my new raison d'ĂȘtre! I find myself comforted by its existence just in knowing it is 'there', I guess, much like a parted couple are comforted knowing their lover is somewhere in the world, and 'theirs' though not 'there'. And to continue the syrupy analogy, my logging in at the end of the day is as exciting as the hug of the lovers reunited in the Virgin trains advert!

And best of all is that my new passion is not just (and some may say my usual!) love affair with myself! Statistics are a wonderful thing if they are positive as they are hateful if they are not - love 'em or hate 'em is funnily enough something I have heard said about myself, although at least I am not just a statistic. Yet!

Anyway, I have been thrilled to my little toes to see that I have had over 2000 views of my blog in the short few weeks that it has been up and running. And in my case this is particularly gratifying because I deliver postings for a living - the spoken rather than the written, admittedly. But the jurors who have listened to my countless speeches over the 18 years I have been making them have been forced to hear them. There is, no doubt, a pleasure in making a closing speech to a jury. In fact, I can confidently say that it has been the greatest rush I have ever experienced and an experience unequalled by anything else I have managed to do in my life. But starting this blog has made me realise there is something even more rewarding......and that is to have people listen (or read in the case of a blog) to what you have to say, not because they have to, but because they want to!

And so although I only have time this evening to say a huge 'thank you' to those who have ventured to read my contributions to our global consciousness, it is important for me to do so. If whatever you have read has in some way enriched or contributed to your thoughts about yourself or your world then that is just fabulous.

But even if you have thought that what you have read of my postings are completely unremarkable and a waste of your time, I am still grateful, because you are an important static, or at least a contributor to it.

On reflection, although I earlier insisted I was at least not a statistic yet, I suppose we all are in one way or another in this data driven world. The important thing, I have learned from starting this blog, is not to feel like one yourself. Its great to feel able to metaphorically shout like that chap in some advert 'I am not a number!' Because to say something that counts to a reader is to add to the sum of what he is in a way that mathematics or statistics will never achieve. A counting not predicated upon the immutability of a number but free to be valued by the regard you have for it, which in itself is neither calculable nor predictable.

And so I say thank you to all you statistics who are not statistics! In truth its not your number that counts to me, but that I may have in a small way counted to some of you.

That's countless.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Thanks for the thoughts

A big thank you to those who left kind words or shared similar experiences in response to my posting about the burglary at my home last week - I was surprised so many felt inclined to get in touch, on my blog, by email or telephone etc.

I was very touched that I had so many messages of sympathy, and I was very smug and happy with my place in the world to think that people cared.......

I could have left my thinking there, but as those who read my ramblings may have started to realise, I can't resist the temptation to consider whether any event reveals insights that occur to me other than the immediately obvious. And this event, the size of the response to my disclosure of my misfortune last week as well as its consequences, has got me thinking in my usual perverse (although I hope sometimes thought provoking and occasionally humorous) way!

In terms of the obvious, I am so grateful that so many felt inclined to get in touch having read or heard of my miserably discovering I had been burgled. My tale of woe and hideous bad luck has been the post that has excited the largest comment on my blog, and has done so in just hours after it was published. Of course the fact that my misfortune has generated a larger response than any of my tales of triumph in the face of adversity, of court room derring do and courageous victories snapped from the jaws of defeat...well, that might be just because my kind hearted readers felt moved by my domestic tragedy and compelled to express themselves in posting replies.

My single misfortune, therefore, seems to have generated more interest than any of my (albeit occasional self - congratulatory) tales of success. And, as you no doubt have already anticipated, I got to wondering precisely why this might be.

Are we naturally inclined to be more intensely interested in our fellow man's tragedies than his successes? Do we feel better for reading of another's misfortunes than his good luck? Might it be that another's bad luck makes us feel grateful for our own happy lives whilst reading of someone else's achievements only serves to remind us of our own perceived lack of them? I'm not sure really, but I do believe that if this is indeed a true analysis of the nature of our psyche, it is not inconsistent with the sincerity of any expressions of sympathy; these can exist alongside the thought 'poor bugger - glad it wasn't me!'.

In pursuing this line of thought, I began to consider the media and what we see reported in the papers and on television daily. What is it that sells news? Which scoops are the ones the tabloids are looking for? I don't believe it cynical of me to say that it is those that expose the misfortunes of others. If not always, then most of the time. Front page news in the tabloids is more often than not an expose of some celebrity's misfortune. Under cover 'stings' are now commonplace and (in my view, sadly) acceptable forms of investigative journalism. The reading public, thirsty for stories of the misfortunes of others give little thought to the lives that are ruined in providing them with such stories to devour and then to give thanks that their misfortunes are not so similarly exposed to the nation. Admittedly, the scoop is all the more interesting if the subject's sad state of affairs is of his own making, but this is by no means a pre - condition. It seems to me that in the case of any individual with celebrity enough to merit a mention in the news columns, we are interested far more in their embarrassments, their secrets and their misfortunes than in their success or their achievements. With the exception of the treacle sweet Hello! magazine (who's success is arguably based on their intractable and immutable insistence on positive reporting) journalistic wisdom seems to be to the effect that the public are more interested in hearing about the downside of life than its occasional ups!

I am sure that if I was to report that I had won the lottery I would receive a great deal of congratulatory response. However, if I was to report that I had missed out on winning the lottery by losing what was a winning ticket, I have to wonder whether this revelation would be of more excitable interest to the same readership? It occurs to me as I write this thought that someone wins the lottery twice a week; sure they may get a mention in the news, but not nearly the privilege of the pages devoted to the criminal who is dispossessed of his winnings, or the spendthrift who squanders his fortune shortly after winning. Similarly, our MP's in parliament do numerous good deeds, both in their personal and their professional lives. But how many of those do you remember reading in the tabloids? If the answer is nil, or practically so, let me ask how many of their failings and their misfortunes you remember reading about? It seems the misfortune of others is what we want to know about. I remember being shocked at the overwhelming coverage Jane Goody's tragic final months received in the news. It was reporting to the point of saturation. What concerned me was not so much that it was being reported, but that this was obviously what the public wanted to see. To be fair to news providers, they can only achieve readership success by informing the public about what they are interested in reading. Another example that comes to mind is that, to me at least, Princess Diana's numerous achievements are not as easily called to mind as the troubles she had - with the press, with her life and so on. My recollection of her, as I think back to those years, is of the tragedy of her life rather than its triumphs. I may be alone in thinking this, but I suspect not. And my memory? Well, I never had the privilege of meeting her myself, and anything I retain as an impression is that which was put in my head by the news institutions who wrote or spoke about her.

And so, when considering the response to my own little misfortune I had to wonder, at the same time as being very happy at the extent of it, whether there was another side to the positive thought that this was just an expression of the inherent goodness of mankind? And in considering this possible other side please don't for a second think that I am in any way denigrating the generosity and sensitivity of those who chose to send me lovely messages. It is gratifying that there are people in the world bothered enough to do so. But I cannot help wonder whether the largest response I have had to a posting was also, even if subliminally motivated by some other factor that found itself an importance in those who read about my misfortune?

This is a legal blog, and I should say there is a legal (ish) point to all of the above rambling musings. In the time before television and mass media the criminal justice system was far more central to the lives of communities than it now is. In those days, the trials of those accused of crime, of those in a wretched situation and possibly to forfeit their lives were the interest and entertainment of the overwhelming majority of society. We no longer have public hangings that are the highlights of our social calendar or people to pillory in the stocks for misdemeanours we are thrilled not to have been exposed for ourselves, but what draws us together in feeling, what is the source of discussion in our pubs and parties is precisely that. The misfortunes of others. And, perhaps, the comfort in knowing they affect persons other than ourselves. Perhaps this is why newspapers report almost exclusively only those cases that result in conviction. There is not much interest, it seems, in those who are acquitted. In the 18 years I have been in practice, cases in which I have defended have been reported in the newspapers hundreds of times - I have been vain enough to retain some of the clippings, so I can tell you for certain that of these literally hundreds of articles, the reports almost unanimously relate only to the cases I have lost. Of my unquantifiable acquittals over almost two decades there has been hardly a whisper. It seems my successes are to be remembered only in my reminiscences whilst my failures recorded for all time! I say that somewhat flippantly, because of course the reports relate not to me but to my client and his case.....but you get my point.

And to me, I suppose, that is the wonderfully interesting fact of the human condition. We have at the same time the capacity for selfless generosity that humbles, and selfish preservation that astounds. We see this more than anywhere in our courts and the trials that are played out within them.

I wonder what comments this post will inspire.....

Saturday, 20 November 2010

I wouldn't defend this criminal....reality bites....

I was in Athens yesterday when I was telephoned at 4a.m. to be told that my home had been burgled. The burglars had broken in through the conservatory. The police told me that it was a professional crime, with the burglars specialising in stealing high value/prestige cars. This was evident in that the criminals did not take any of the valuables clearly on display in my home (other than my computer which I think they took as an after thought). What they wanted, and obtained, were my car keys. They then drove off in my car - their intention, the police believe, being to sell it to criminal organisations who operate by exporting stolen prestige vehicles to Middle Eastern or Asian countries where there is a heavy demand for such cars.

Nine hours later, I am now home having had a traumatic and deeply upsetting journey. In the few hours since I was told my home had been violated by strangers I have had to deal with all the diverse consequences of being a victim of crime. There is the obvious financial loss, in my case more painful, I suspect than for most of those who have sadly found themselves in a similar situation. Having walked through the door, I began checking my post - a huge pile of unopened mail that never seems to diminish in its size or its capacity to terrorise me into leaving it untouched and unseen! Its usual menace was, on this night however no match for my intense need for the distraction opening mail would give me in the moments after I came through my front door knowing someone had been there rifling through my stuff. Anyway, the second letter I absently tore open was a reminder from my insurance company that my car insurance was due to expire and would not be renewed without my express authorisation. 'Gosh, I must do that, I thought, staring at the date at the top of the letter' took a little while before I realised that the letter was three weeks old and that my insurance had expired nine days ago....and a little longer before the effect of this began as a distant rumble somewhere in my head and then hit me with the inexorable force of a tsunami! Hmm....I was suddenly £45k out of pocket. This was something of a bitter pill to swallow, particularly as I had been darkly ruminating on the flight back to London that the locksmith who I had retained to change all the locks in my home had left me a voicemail invoicing me for £1500. At that stage, and blissfully ignorant of any other possible financial losses, I was horrified at the prospect of having to pay £1500, let alone a penny more! Little did I know that in fact the cost to me as a result of this burglary would mean an equivalent of paying forty thousand locksmiths at the rate my chap had charged me!

The loss of my computer is simply devastating to me, and I am hit every few minutes with new realisations of why this is so. My whole life is contained in it. Professionally, all the work I have done over the last eight years is lost. Eight years of financial accounts, lost. Eight years of legal software, lost. The precious personal files on the computer are even more painful to contemplate in their disappearance. Irreplaceable videos and photographs. My music collection. The huge body of letters and emails that were, in effect, the chronicle of my life...all lost. It seems an abomination that such precious and priceless pieces of my life are in the hands of....of, well, I don't know.

And as I write this, my dark and hateful thoughts about what I would like to happen to the scum who has so trespassed upon my life, my rage at the unfairness of it is like a random but insistent stream of consciousness in my head flowing by just behind the thoughts I marshall in writing this post. The random hate, rage, revenge et al is like background noise, a fuzzy mass of seething blackness like a television screen screaming chaotic buzz when a channel has gone off air.

As those who know me may attest, I have always sought to find something good to come out of any (and there have been many) of the disasters that have occasionally punctuated an otherwise wonderful life! So as I write this post, I have somewhat reluctantly let go of all the hateful thoughts I have been thinking about the nameless, faceless object of my rage. And in doing so I find myself deeply uncomfortable with the lynch mob fantasies I was engaging in only moments before. This is just one more crime in my life. The difference is that for the first time I am its victim, rather than the champion of the accused. Of the hundreds of burglars I must have defended, I have probably empathised with them all, and felt genuinely that they were in some way victims themselves....drug addicts, homeless, thoughtless, desperate and disenfranchised members of our world, individuals to whom we as a community owed a responsibility and in whose crimes we were not ourselves entirely blameless.

You know, writing a blog is quite therapeutic and, like the keeping of a diary, an excellent way in which to work out and identify the views you hold through the process of committing thought to writing. And my thoughts? Well, I can't say I am happy about what has happened, but I think now that the title of this posting...'I wouldn't defend this criminal...' would in itself be criminal were I to remain of that view. Of course as a victim I 'couldn't' defend someone who had committed a crime against me. But I am pleased that at the end of my post I have realised that, for me at least, it will always be 'couldn't' and never 'wouldn't'. My calling demands that I do my best for all those I represent, without fear or favour. I couldn't...and wouldn't...have it any other way.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Something worth reading?

You know what? I had forgotten that I had a blog over the last few days - it takes a bit of getting used to I guess. After the novelty of it all that had generated a flurrry of posts, I seem to have gone the way of most impulsive projects and suddenly died an ignominious death. Ah! But like Lazarus (or to be less sacrilegious) like the phoenix from the ashes, my musings are herewith risen from the grave for those interested in the flames lovingly fanned from the embers of what I generously call a blog.

So. What has been interesting me of late? I have to say that the most amazing part of my week has been my perusal of my blog 'stats'. Apparently close on 1500 enlightened individuals have visited my cyber contributions to the mass of miscellanea that characterises the internet. I was thrilled until a closer inspection of the statistical data my provider discloses revealed that the grandiose figure I have quietly crowed about includes my own visits to my homily to all thoughts I have dubiously penned in my own name. Oh deceptive statistical data! You cyber sirens, you! You denizens of deceptions!! I curse thee for allowing me to believe I have anything like a readership - in the traditional sense, I mean. For I may have a large statistical perusal of my words of wisdom. Unfortunately I am of the depressing but immutable opinion that 99% of the accesses to my worthy but as yet unknown blog might be my own!! Hmm....what positive can be taken from this disappointing state of affairs?...Well, at a stretch I suppose I can at least say that my readership is of the most discerning kind! As coincidence would have it, of exactly the calibre of the author himself! With the exception of those two brave followers prepared to advertise their affiliation to my virtual offerings! Two those two trailblazing souls, I can only promise this - you are likely to remain an exclusive and prescient duo - ahead of your time, this time, and just in time to save these pages being consigned to timeless oblivion. For all time, metaphorically speaking, of course. To those of my 1500 hits not my own, I say this - why not stand up and be counted and officially follow me? You know you will be eventually discovered and proverbially outed if I remain your 'guity pleasure' (to quote one Cheryl Cole in her critique of an x factor boy band (boy being the operative word) looking every inch many miles before the age of consent!

Hmm...on reflection, I have to accept there is no point being affiliated to the blog of an author such as me - to do so would be somewhat risque as thus associated with a maverick and flawed but unique member of the bar. Not for everyone. Certainly not for those cautious and conservative majority that characterise our ranks as lawyers.

NB If that reverse psychology did not get to you, sign up anyway....;)

Finally, a word to a hoofy and very dear solicitor of mine (in the broadest sense as she never instructs me).....whatever you say, you read it! All of it!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Chinese whispers

A couple of years ago I was instructed to defend a Chinese man accused of being the financier of the Snakehead organisation.  I was leading Gudrun Young from my chambers and it was during this case that we met the wonderful Richard Benson QC who was leading for the second Defendant.  During the course of the trial he wrote a poem about me.  I wish I could hand on heart say that I was re - producing it here as an homage to his literary prowess - that he is a gifted poet is doubtless true, but its the content of the poem I have to say I would like to think is timeless!!!

Here it is.....

The Greatest Living Advocate
(A poem by Richard Benson QC) 
D’Souza rose with golden tongue,
This Adonis of the Bar.
On every word the jurors hung,
Of him, the brightest star.
Whence did he come, this God – like boy?
No earthly path he trod;
To hear him speak was utter joy,
Touch’d by the hand of God.

There can be only one, we’re told,
In this our earthly sphere,
Who is so skilled and awesome bold,
We shed a humbling tear.
The Greatest Living Advocate is nigh,
We’re pleased to call him ‘Brother’.
All we can do is heave a sigh
For there’ll never be another.

 R v. Xing Cheng and others
Swansea Crown Court

This case involved Chinese defendants and mostly Chinese witnesses.  They were all from the Fuking Province in China.  As you know, Chinese names and places are often the subject of good natured humour here in the West.  This case was no exception, and I will never forget Mr. Benson asking a witness gravely whether he was Fukinese (but he prounounced it 'Fukin easy') which I thought was Fukin hard to get away with!  We had enormous fun in Swansea doing the case.

Having grown up in Hong Kong where my parents were ex pats, I speak pretty fluent Cantonese and as a result have been instructed in a number of cases involving Chinese defendants.  All have been the source of fond and mirthful memories but none beats the case of Wang Quing Chun who I defended at Knightsbridge Crown Court (as it then was).  When I called the defendant to give evidence I, of course, had to identify him as my first question.  In asking his name I said 'Are you Wang Quing (pronounced phonetically 'King') Chun?'  When he nodded vigorously and confirmed that he was, I said 'I'm very glad to hear it but its your voice I want you to keep up so we can all hear you.....'.  These moments of light relief (no pun intended) in what are otherwise stressful and traumatic trials are helpful not only for the barristers seeking to lighten the mood for a little, but I think are appreciated by jurors who are sometimes exhausted by the effort of having to listen to distressing testimony for extended periods.  Barristers sometimes forget how difficult this can be for jurors unused to dealing with matters that are the daily fare of a criminal practitioner's life.  As an advocate it is a real skill and a matter of sensitive judgement to be able to, appropriately and without affecting the dignity of the court process, break the oppressiveness that accompanies serious criminal allegations to give everybody in the courtroom a momentary and much needed 'time out'.  I am still trying to learn this skill as it is an often forgotten part of the arsenal available to an advocate.  I have seen both jurors and witnesses visibly grateful to the barrister providing a moments respite from the intense and distressing labours required of them.  And as a result jurors in particular, often feel an attraction to the advocate kind enough to provide a moments relief through a shared humorous intimacy.  I have found that this advocacy skill has been the hardest of all to perfect.  This is because it cannot be taught or practiced through a formulaic usage.  On the contrary, it is a matter of judgement and instinct.  And the consequences of getting it wrong can be disasterous for obvious reasons - humour that falls flat or is considered crass and inappropriate could not only fatally prejudice your client but also result in reprimand or worse from the judge.  Perhaps this is why so many barristers shy away from using this important technique in advocacy.

However, one only needs to see the skill utilised effectively to realise quite how powerful and important a part of the art of advocacy the use of humour can be.  For my part, I have never seen an exponent of this skill as masterful and effective as Sir Desmond de Silva QC.  His judgement and timing are simply exquisite and although it appears for all the world that his 'ice breakers' are delivered on the spur of the moment, I suspect they are carefully planned salvos primed and waiting for the right moment to be launched.  For those with the time or the inclination, much can be learned from watching those few confident enough in their judgement to effectively utilise the humorous in the midst of a trial that is anything but.

It is thus that many a true word can be said in jest.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Trouble. Again.

Oh dear. No sooner have I cautiously embarked upon my experiment in blawging I seem to have been heading in the direction of trouble. Again.

I had to hurriedly edit one of my earlier posts having inadvertently made reference to a case I was doing that had not completely finished. I say inadvertent - well, the reference was not so obviously, but my not thinking about the possible problems that might cause me was indeed so.

Luckily for me a young and industrious member of my chambers (with nothing better to do, it seems) had gone to the trouble of reading my missive and emailed me to tell me I should remove the offending post. So pleased am I that he took the trouble to do so I have forgiven the tone in which he penned his advice. For example, in what I am sure he thought was a natty and inventive twist on my blog title - THE criminal barrister - he disclosed that although I might not be THE idiot it was perhaps a bit silly to have mentioned an ongoing case, even if not identifiably. And just in case I was THE idiot, this well meaning chap provided an example of the potential risk I was exposing myself to...a female juror, apparently, who had a crush on me could have googled my name having found out how to spell it and come across my blog. Hmm....this young barrister could have potential because this appeal to my vanity was the main reason I took note of what he had to say! Well done you clever chap!

Despite the surprising tone of this message from a chap I have once led in a case (it felt as wrong as being spanked and sent to my room by my son!) I could see straight away that he had a point. Accordingly I have attempted to remove the post, but genuinely being THE idiot when it comes to computer tech, I have only figured out how to edit it as opposed to removing it in its entirety (an endeavour that has exhausted my efforts at discovery). Annoyingly that meant I had to delete the offending passage and then make up something else that fitted into the context of the rest of what I had written - harder than it sounds!

Although my reader's message was mildly humorous in its presumptuousness, it also served two other purposes. In the first place it forewarned me of potential trouble I might be getting into, for which I am genuinely grateful. But it got me thinking on a wider platform about the real problems for lawyers that the internet has brought into being. The internet is a wonderful resource for instantly telling the world about what you are up to. The motivations for doing so are, of course, numerous but our age old predilection to 'talk' about ourselves and our lives have been given a new mass audience through the web. Instead of calling a friend to voice the successes and failures of our daily lives or to spread news of our plans, we can now do the same thing on the internet and more, have our thoughts communicated to thousands in the same time a 'real' conversation communicated them to our single listener. This, in part at least, perhaps explains the meteoric rise in popularity of sites like Twitter - forums for virtual conversations where discussion about any aspect of a person's life is played out in a way that would formerly have been aired in chats with friends and colleagues, in person or over the telephone. The difference is that in saying something on Twitter, a person does not know (and its often difficult to pre - determine) who his listeners are. And therein hides the danger for barristers who use the internet in communicating the thoughts they would previously have voiced in conversations with friends and colleagues at work or at social events. Having received a cyber smack from my young member of chambers for not being alert to all the possibilities publishing something on the internet may have, I conducted a little research of my own just out of curiosity. Enlightened as I now am by THE clever chap who emailed me, I had a look at some of the messages and comments posted by collegues in my profession through sites like Twitter and Facebook as well as in blogs. I have to say that the authors of many of them might have been more circumspect in posting their disclosures had they been more aware that telling friends something on the internet is very different to telling them personally. Friends might laugh about hearing how drunk and inappropriately Mr. Lawyer behaved at his stag do, but the same conversation read on the internet by those not part of the receptive audience the disclosure was directed to may react very differently. Similarly, I have seen on Twitter, comments by lawyers about their cases that although innocuous in themselves, were potential pitfalls of precisely the sort I fell into by publishing the material I have lately removed from one of my postings. The lesson I have learned is that you cannot always tell your friends or colleagues on the internet what you might tell them in the pub. Not without consequence anyway. Happily for me, my mistake only resulted in my having to endure being told I was almost THE idiot. And not BY an idiot because my young reader also said in his message to me that although he could not say for sure that I was THE criminal barrister, he had to concede I was 'a bloody good brief'.

I can't fault his judgement on that.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A thinking man's parts.

I am happily nursing a restorative cognac after an exhausting day. The trial I was due to start today was resolved when my client offered pleas that were acceptable to the Prosecution although it was intensely stressful getting there.

Today's case was estimated to last 3 weeks but I am now free to spend a day catching up with paperwork in chambers tomorrow. I also have a conference on friday morning at Matrix Chambers. I am looking forward to my first viewing of this hip and trendy chambers and imagine the premises is very plush it having been launched on the back of considerable funding, or so the rumour goes. I believe Cherry Blair QC is a member - something that reflects creditably on the chambers....for some at least, I suppose. The same is no doubt said of my membership at Argent! But love me or loathe me I am thought of as damned good, even by those I am thought of as good as damned! For my part I just like being damned good at being damned good. Which is damned good. Unlike this post which is developing into something no damned good...Damn that good cognac...hic...

Thought crime appears to have moved from the realm of fantasy into shocking reality today according to the news reports I have read about the ruling made by an Italian court in a family divorce matter. It seems that Minority Report was a film more prescient than I had given it credit for because the Italian court granted a husband a divorce because his wife had "thought" about having an affair without ever actually being in any way unfaithful to her husband. Apparently to even think about infidelity is now potentially grounds for divorce! I can only presume the judgement will be strictly interpreted by the courts and no doubt construed as only applying to women. Were this not so, then every Italian stallion from Silvio Burlesconi (surely a thought offender at least once a minute, every minute) downwards would be engaging in cerebral behaviour possibly predicating divorce proceedings? In this situation the courts would immediately be overwhelmed with indignant wives punishing their errant husbands for the thoughts that I am sure occupy the greater part of any thinking man's day. It is axiomatic this must be so, because we know the part any man uses in thinking!

And these musings have got me thinking about the differences between men and women. Yet again I find myself inclined to the view that women are in every regard superior to their baser counterparts, of which I am one....which is why, unbidden, the thought has popped into my head that women are far sexier too....

Having had that Silvio moment I think I best do some work before I am distracted by the thoughts that I have in common with every thinking man!

Finally, and to maintain the theme, a woman much wiser than I once said "We would worry less what people think of us, if we realised how seldom they do". Something to think about....

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Trials and tribulations

A big thank you to the one and only person who has found my blog, and not only that, apparently read my first post and even troubled to pen an encouraging comment! Its a start, I suppose, and may herald the opening of a floodgate as thousands flock to my blog eager to read my occasional musings. Ever the optimist I thought it right to express my gratitude to this visionary reader boldly browsing where no man has gone before, in advance of my blog crashing as a result of the millions rushing to read my postings! My dear twitter friend @disklabs you will always have the pleasure of knowing you were here first!.....and possibly last as my optimism is probably misplaced. It often is.

Speaking of optimism I have had a fairly good run of acquittals recently, which is great. Thats not always the case and sometimes a barrister has a run of cases that are so hopeless that the Good Lord himself could not win them. The old acquittal is good for morale because even after 18 years in practice the intensity of emotions and the pride an acquittal generates remain completely and utterly undiminished. That is what has kept me at the Bar regardless of the huge cost we pay in following our vocation practising law. We make a difference to people's lives and in so doing play a part in the direction of the future of our world. And this is not hyperbole, you know. I sometimes think about the client I successfully defend on, for example a charge of murder. If I had lost the case he would spend his useful life in prison. By winning he belongs to the world and has his own place in history. He might have children, who themselves might have children and so on ad infinitum. Any one of those countless generations might do wonderful things or in some way be part of the history that is our past. But had I lost that case, and had my client not been in the world to leave his mark upon it, then those countless generations, those countless lives that were to follow his who would have influenced and affected thosands more and so on.....well, but for me, they would never even have existed. And our future would immutably be different as a result....

It is in these philosophical and contemplative moments that I think in defending my clients I am not only fighting for the individual, but for the timeless future generations that depend upon his place in a generational chain for their very existence! In so musing, I often ask what worthier calling there could possibly be than one in which histories and futures are determined by the outcome of my efforts?

Of course the fact I am damn good at what I do may also have played a less virtuous but not insignificant part in my love affair with the law. Now on these occasions the future of my client, let alone the world is not even given a passing thought! Nothing so deep and serious...and frankly boring! To know you are good, to have a jury tell you so through their verdict is a pleasure beyond reckoning. There have been times in my professional life - electric cross examinations, closing speeches that I know have touched something inside those who were listening - that have given me more joy, made me more alive in the essence of who I am than in any other aspect of my life. The vocation that is the Bar gives those privileged enough to have been called to it highs unobtainable to most. But inevitably there is a price to pay for these privileges. Although a love affair with the law is a lifelong relationship, she is a demanding mistress. Sleepless nights, stress, fear, faltering courage, insecurity, self doubt, disappointment, humiliation and horror are but few of the countless but inevitable facets of the life of a barrister, and there is no avoiding running into them when they cross our path. They are as glued to our calling as our shadows are to our feet.

These are the trials and tribulations of a life at the Bar. And to each of those barristers practising in the courts up and down the country I am sure they are as individual as fingerprints. Knowing this, I thought an account of my highs and lows as a criminal barrister might be worth recording, and, who knows, might be considered worth reading?

And so that is what my blog will be about.

Monday, 8 November 2010

And so it begins

Late on a school night when I should sensibly be in bed, I have decided to start a blog. I am as yet unsure quite what a blog is and feel like a pupil on his feet for the first time in some far flung and godforsaken Magistrates Court - insecure and inadequate. But fear not, I am sure I will soon get with the programme and in no time be worthy of that moniker 'blawgger' I sometimes see bandied about on the internet - as an insult or compliment it seems, in equal measure...'blawgger' is clearly a term that is context sensitive! Rather like the word 'bad' used by kids these days. A particularly youthful client of mine recently told me I was 'bad' after I had given a closing speech on his behalf and I have to say I felt like smacking the ungrateful sprogg who clearly had not understood the genius of my address to the jury. It was a good thing I did not give him a clout as I later discovered 'bad' meant good! 'You're bad, man!' in this context was apparently a compliment. On the other hand when the numerous and unfortunate passengers in my car tell me I am a bad driver they, apparently, mean precisely that! With the exception of that youthful client I drove to the train station after he was acquitted. I was late and driving like I had stolen my car and I suspect his gleeful cries of 'that's bad, man' were meant to be complimentary.

Less confusing was the compliment I received today from my Co - Defending barrister in the case I am currently defending. His kind words were all the more touching because I am running a 'cut throat' defence, blaming his client for the offence. After I finished my speech and returned to the robing room to remove my wig and gown he came up to me and said 'Dom, that was a bravura performance. Old school advocacy. I have enjoyed the way you have conducted the whole trial and you are a class act!'. What a lovely thing for him to have said! And a rarity in a bitchy and conceited profession. More than that I must remember 'bravura'! What a lovely word!

Anyway, so ends my first offering on my blog. Not sure how I get anyone other than myself to read it, but its a start! Its long past what should have been my bedtime and I am starting another trial in the morning.