Pupil Diary: Week Nine

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Pupil Diary: Week Nine

 

I began Monday by completing an e-Learning course on handling information responsibly [BPS 2.6].

My supervisor requested that I print and bind all unused material for a trial next week [BPS 3.2] in which he will be against a ‘Silk’ — that is, a QC barrister. In fact, my supervisor sent an e-mail welcoming me back, but stressing that I should keep my “decks cleared” for court as my help will be needed. Nice to feel wanted!

I resumed work on the Pre-Charge Advice entrusted to me before Christmas:  an affray involving multiple suspects. The offence, an alcohol-fuelled brawl, took place on a busy train. CCTV footage from inside the train is now available, so I requested a DVD copy.

On viewing the footage, I was surprised at the prolonged and sustained level of aggression from all involved — particularly as each suspect told police in interview that they had acted in self-defence. I sought the input of a senior colleague [BPS 3.2]. In his view, the more serious charge of Violent Disorder may be appropriate.

On Tuesday, I handed the unused material to my supervisor (printed and bound, as requested) and we discussed some matters of CPS disclosure [BPS 1.3]. Then, he set me a challenge.

In a separate case that my supervisor is handling, the defendant stands accused of robbery. However, my supervisor has some general concerns as to soundness. He gave me a two-word hint:  the indictment. Then he sent me away to review the statements, watch the CCTV and return with a second opinion… and fast! [BPS 1.6]

I could find no flaws in the wording of the indictment. So, I looked to the offence and asked myself:  What evidence supports it? It didn’t take long to spot the issue, once I’d reminded myself of the definition of robbery — i.e. using force to steal.

In our case, the defendant is alleged to have used force to steal the victim’s mobile phone from his room at a hostel. The defendant knew the victim and had entered his room uninvited. The two men argued. The argument developed into an attack. It ended with the phone being taken.

CCTV footage is unhelpful as it covers only the communal hallway. However, a careful reading of the victim’s statement reveals that, in fact, the violence had subsided and the defendant was walking away when he suddenly grabbed the phone off a shelf.

Hence, wouldn’t two separate counts of assault and theft be more appropriate, as opposed to one (more serious) count of robbery?

I concluded that the answer is no [BPS 1.5 & 1.10]. The defendant had entered the victim’s room by forcing the door. Once inside, he had attacked the victim in his bed. It is therefore arguable that the violence was a continuing act — even as the defendant walked away afterwards. For surely, if the victim had tried to take back his phone, he would have endured a further pummelling.

My supervisor agreed with this view (more or less). The case will proceed with the indictment as it is, and the defence can take issue before trial if they choose.

Wednesday, for the most part, was spent trying to make sense of the CCTV footage in my affray case. A police report had identified who is who on the train, based on each suspect’s general appearance. But in attempting to compile a blow-by-blow account, I discovered subtle discrepancies, revealing that the police report must be in error. Frustratingly, I had invested half a day before realising this.

I discussed it with my supervisor and line manager. It was suggested that I contact the officer in charge to request a detailed image analysis. I e-mailed the officer and arranged a telephone conference for later that day [BPS 1.6].

The officer agreed to compile a series of video edits, with slow-motion playback, facial-highlighting and text overlays to identify each suspect clearly. Even so, I remained concerned that at trial, some of the suspects may deny it is them. Therefore, the officer agreed to take further statements from officers who had interviewed suspects — i.e. to confirm that the faces shown in the footage match the faces of persons interviewed. We then agreed a reasonable deadline for the production of this evidence [BPS 1.7].

On Thursday, I approached my line manager to agree some personal deadlines over the coming months, to ensure that my outstanding tasks are completed [BPS 4.2 & 4.3]. With four weeks in chambers approaching (i.e. my secondment), plus my supervisor’s request that I keep my “decks cleared” for trial, I must be wary of taking on commitments.

Of particular concern is the Forensic Accounting course, which really ought to be done during the First Six if possible. My manager has agreed to let me tackle this course in March [BPS 2.6]. Also, there’s a 3-day Advocacy Training course arranged on circuit — attendance at which is compulsory, and must take priority over other commitments.

On Friday, the long-anticipated skeleton argument arrived from the defence in the ‘cyber’ case that I’ve been handling (see week five). As expected, they argue that the iPhone is a mobile phone, not a computer; therefore, deleting the record of calls and texts on an iPhone does not amount to deleting “computer history” — as the defendant was expressly prohibited from doing. Having written a detailed advice on this point, I feel well-equipped to respond. However, the defence further argues that in any event, the Court Order was drafted in such vague terms that it simply doesn’t make sense. I think, for the prosecution, this latter point is the more challenging one.

I was able to convene an impromptu conference involving myself, my supervisor and another CPS Crown Advocate [BPS 3.2]. We debated the wording of the Order, and whether this was sufficient to inform the defendant that he must not delete his texts and calls. We discussed the available evidence, as the next hearing is an Application to Dismiss, where the legal test is whether our evidence is sufficient to properly convict (Sch.3, Para.2(2) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998).

I will draft our skeleton argument the week after next [BPS 1.14]. Our deadline is 26th January. It must be served in my supervisor’s name, so he gave me some instructions as to his style of presentation, e.g:

  • Size 14 font;
  • 1.5 line spacing;
  • Numbered, double-spaced paragraphs;
  • Case citations in footnotes.

Following our conference, I put the ‘cyber’ case to one side and made a start on our indecent assault trial beginning Monday. In particular, I edited the police interview transcript and prepared a dramatis personae for my supervisor — including dates of birth and ages of persons involved [BPS 3.2].

End of week nine.

 

[Published with the permission of my line manager]

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