We learnt yesterday from a paralegal called Rob (known on twitter as @RobEdward90) that a 17 year old boy has been told by the Legal Aid Agency that he will not be given legal aid to contest his trial on charges of driving whilst disqualified. The first reason for the decision is that “there is no reason why the applicant would be unable to cross-examine police officers in person.” The youth in question is, as the cliché goes, no stranger to the criminal courts and indeed is currently the subject of a Youth Rehabilitation Order.
We don’t know his name, but given his familiarity with the criminal courts and his evident skill in advocacy we can call him Rumpole.
*** *** ***
I turned over and pulled the duvet further over my head.
“Rumpole! Rumpole! Wake up.”
“Mu-u-m. Go away. What time is it?”
“It’s half past ten Rumpole. You do know you were due in court at ten o’clock.”
“Why the f*ck didn’t you wake me up earlier Mum?”
“Rumpole, you’re seventeen now. You shouldn’t need me to wake you up. Anyway I’ve been at work.”
“That’s so unfair. Can you ring the court and tell them I’ll be late?”
“Just this once, love, but you really do need to remember to turn up the sound on your mobile, otherwise the alarm won’t wake you up, dear.”
“Jesus Christ, Mum, you sound like really lame when you talk about things you don’t understand.
“Did you at least ring listing and ask for it to be not before two?”
“No, darling, I’m afraid I forgot.”
“Mum I told you to ask them. You promised.”
“I’m very sorry darling, I forgot. But you can tell the judge it’s my fault that you’re late.”
Like that will be an excuse that the judge will accept!
Well that’s my Mum, I love her to bits of course, even though to my mates she’s “She Who Must Be Obeyed.”
Over bacon and eggs we had a chat about the Old Darling who would be hearing my driving whilst disqualified case today.
“Did you at least check the list on CourtServe last night, Mum? It does help if I know who the judge is going to be.”
“I think you’re old enough to use CourtServe yourself now, darling. You don’t even need to have secure email to register. Even I can do it. Anyway, just this once I did. You’ve got Judge Sangster.”
This was not good news. I have had the dubious pleasure of appearing before Hanger Sangster several times over the last few years and not once have we seen eye to eye.
“F*cking hell Mum. That’s just so unfair. Can’t you ring listing and ask them to transfer it to Judge Lamb?”
“But darling, it’s far too late for that now. And you know what listing will say, like they always say:
‘We don’t arrange our lists for Rumpole’s convenience.’
Anyway we got to court just before lunch. I had hardly got through the doors when I felt the familiar hand of a burly Police Constable on my shoulder:
“Rumpole, I have here a warrant for your arrest for failing to attend your trial at 10.00 this morning.”
*** *** ***
I’ve had a few dealings with PC Arbuthnot over the years, and I’ve usually seen him off with his tail between his legs.
I’m particularly proud of the last time our paths crossed. Because I was pissed and slightly under the influence of some particularly good skunk when he arrested me I had stupidly confessed to burgling Mr Nicholson’s shed in Sylvester Close.
It was so unfair, but that’s how it is with “Arsehole” Arbuthnot.
Fortunately, even though I wasn’t thinking straight, I’d spotted that under Paragraph C1B of the 2017 edition of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act Code of Practice for the Detention and Questioning of Suspects they couldn’t use Mum as an appropriate adult for my questioning as they were also using her as a witness in the investigation, no doubt anticipating that I might pretend that I was at home when the burglary took place. Obviously I took the point on a voire dire. I conducted a short but effective cross-examination of Arsehole, who clearly didn’t have a clue about the recent case-law on confessions, and although Judge “Larry” Lamb wasn’t very happy about it, he didn’t really have a choice; he had to exclude the confession under S.76 – and under S.78 too for good measure:
“Therefore I am reluctantly driven by Master Rumpole’s powerful and persuasive submissions to the conclusion that the prosecution have failed to prove to the criminal standard that his confession was not ‘obtained as aforesaid.’ The consequence is that the evidence must be excluded.”
“Stinker” Stinson’s normally jolly red face turned ashen.
Now was the time to press home my advantage. I wrote Stinker a note and passed it to the usher through the tiny gap in the glass walls of the dock.
“You haven’t got a case left have you Stinker? You can’t resist my submission under the first limb in Galbraith. Tell you what, if you drop the case now then I won’t apply for costs against the CPS.”
It was a bit of a try on, admittedly, as I knew that there was no way that Larry would ever award costs against the CPS. But I’ve been against Stinker long enough to know that his confident manner hides a fundamental insecurity that he’ll lose his CPS practice, and with it any chance of acquiring the purple dressing-gown that he covets so much.
“Your Honour, might I have a few minutes to take some instructions? Your Honour’s ruling may have the effect of substantially shortening matters.”
You bet it did. He was back 5 minutes later to throw in the towel.
*** *** ***
Anyway, that was then. As Arbuthnot led me down to the cells things weren’t looking quite so rosy now.
“You cocky little c*nt,” Arbuthnot whispered in my ear, “let’s see you get out of this one.”
“That’s so f*cking unfair!”
“Life sometimes is unfair, mate.” Arbuthnot wasn’t listening. Indeed, it was impossible to avoid detecting a slight note of triumph in his tone of voice.
“Show me the f*cking warrant.”
He ignored me and took my phone out of my back pocket.
“Why the f*ck are you taking that? You c*nting f*cking c*nt! What am I going to do in the cells without my phone?”
“Not my problem mate, I’m seizing it.”
“You’re a bastard, Arbuthnot. A total bastard.”
“Tell you what, son, I’ll let you read a copy of the warrant in the cells. You’ve got lunch-time to digest it.”
“Just so you know the score officer, if I find so much as a spelling mistake in the warrant I’ve got a f*cking template for a f*cking pre-action f*cking protocol letter in a false f*cking imprisonment claim ready to go as soon as I get my phone back. I take it your Chief Constable will accept service via Snapchat?”
He didn’t stay around to answer.
*** *** ***
Up in court after lunch The Hangster was in uncharacteristically cheerful mode.
“Master Rumpole,” he began, “how good to see you here again. I suppose I ought to ask why you weren’t here at 10.00 o’clock when your trial was listed?”
I know enough about advocacy to know that it’s never a good idea to blame Mum, even when, like today, it was clearly Mum’s fault that I was late.
“A technical issue with my mobile phone, Your Honour.”
“Well never mind that now.”
Hangster was beaming. But now he turned to Stinson.
“Mr Stinson, you have, I take it, seen Master Rumpole’s skeleton argument?”
Although I normally only see the back of my prosecutor’s head from the dock, when Stinker turned round as if to consult with the CPS representative behind him (of course there wasn’t one) I could see that his face had turned puce.
“Er, Your Honour, I’m not sure if that document has, er, found its way onto the Digital Case System.”
“Well of course not; as Master Rumpole appears in person, this isn’t a digital case, is it Mr Stinson?”
“Your Honour, if I might have a moment to take instructions ….”
“Really, Mr Stinson? You’ve had months to prepare this case.”
Sangster turned to me
“You have complied with the Criminal Procedure Rules on the service of skeleton arguments?”
“You mean Statutory Instrument 2015 No. 1490 (as amended) and the Criminal Practice Directions (2015)? Why of course.”
“And your short point, Master Rumpole, is that there has been a small but highly significant failure to comply with the Police and Criminal Evidence Code of Practice on Identification, is that right?”
“It is indeed, Your Honour. As your honour appreciates I rely upon Donald  Crim.L.R. 841, and the judgment of Lord Justice Hobhouse in the well known but unreported case of Walker.”
“Well what do you say to that, Mr Stinson. It is unanswerable, is it not?”
Mr Stinson was frantically stabbing at his i-Pad.
“Your Honour, I find myself in some difficulty, the court wi-fi seems to be down.”
“You can have 5 minutes to take instructions, Mr Stinson. There is no need for you to remain in custody Master Rumpole.”
As the door to the dock was unlocked, Stinson was waiting
“Look, Master Rumpole, if you don’t make an application for costs against the CPS we probably won’t need to hear any more about your being late this morning ….”