These days no prosecutor is considered properly trained until they have attended a course to warn them sternly of the dangers of believing “myths and stereotypes” about sexual offences. The CPS website lists 10 such myths (defined as “a commonly held belief, idea or explanation that is not true”), including, for example:
“Rape occurs between strangers in dark alleys” (obviously it occasionally does, but the myth is that it only or mainly occurs in that way).
“You Can Tell if She’s ‘Really’ Been Raped by How She Acts” (when, as the CPS correctly points out, reactions to rape are “highly varied and individual.”)
It is all to the good that any myth should be expunged by the cauterising effect of truth, but there are even more fundamental assumptions underlying the whole criminal justice system. They are these:
- Jurors can safely rely on the memory of an honest witness;
- Jurors can safely assess when a witness’s memory is mistaken;
- Jurors can safely assess when a witness is lying.
Unfortunately each one of these assumptions is a myth: a “commonly held belief that is not true.” Continue reading “Never mind rape myths, the criminal justice system is built on even more fundamental myths”
I should apologise to Barristerblogger readers who are not Archers fans. I was one of you once but the drama of Helen Titchener’s attempted murder trial has dragged me in.
The question of the moment is this: will Jess’s evidence be admitted?
If you haven’t clicked away from this page already you almost certainly know the plot. Helen is on trial for attempting to murder her husband, Rob. There is no dispute that she stabbed him. The issue is whether she acted in self-defence. It is for the prosecution to prove that she did not.
Neither barrister is looking like an early candidate for silk at the moment.
Helen’s brief, Anna Tregorran, made a mess of the crucial cross-examination of Rob, when she allowed it to degenerate into an undignified shouting match, before the loathsome complainant managed to sob out the the last few heart-rending seconds of his evidence; whilst prosecution counsel, Mr Bywater, despite a confident start has foundered badly in his cross-examination of Helen. His tone has fluctuated between sneery (sometimes a perfectly proper tone for a prosecutor), hectoring and downright aggressive. It hit an absolute nadir when he appeared to suggest that because she had conceived Henry by IVF, her desperation to conceive another child meant she would have had an insatiable sexual appetite thereafter. Continue reading “Mainly for Archers fans: Will the jury be allowed to hear from Jess?”
Half the country was glued to their radios on Sunday night for the first day in the Archers Trial.
Prosecution counsel’s opening was suave and persuasive, whilst being perfectly fair – Julian Bywater correctly stressed, for example, that it was for the prosecution to disprove self-defence not for the defence to prove it.
Listeners were more concerned to see how Helen’s barrister, the troubled and intermittently drink-sodden Anna Tregorran, would rise to the occasion.
In preparing for the trial of the century over the past few months Miss Tregorran has certainly not been lacking in commitment: she has visited her client in prison innumerable times (for almost all of which she won’t be paid a penny).
On the other hand she has been remarkably unsuccessful on the two occasions when she actually appeared in court. She made an inexplicably unsuccessful bail application which has led to Helen spending the last 5 months in custody; and her performance in the family court was so lamentable that she was lucky not to be reported to the Bar Standards Board for conducting a case without the appropriate knowledge and expertise. Continue reading “Anna Tregorran is making heavy weather of defending Helen Titchener in The Archers Trial”