It was late and, yes, I’d had quite a few cocktails. I was fumbling for my keys on the street outside my flat when a man stepped out of the darkness and punched me three times in the face – twice in the jaw, once in the mouth – and stole my bag. Two of my front teeth broke in half and the damage to my jaw meant I had to eat mush through a straw for the next month.So, actual evidence of a crime (if we exclude the possibility that she was drunk enough to fall on her face, of course). That makes a nice change!
My neighbour called the police who were sympathetic. They said the assault was GBH and sent an artist round to produce a sketch of my attacker. Ten months later, I picked the police’s suspect out of a lineup and was called to give evidence against him in court. But shortly before the trial date, I received a brief email from the police saying I had been “de-warned”. I had no idea what that meant.Well, it seems to mean that the police officer handling your case is illiterate:
“Phobe [sic], De warning means the case is not going a head [sic]. No witnesses are required for trial. Case has been dropped,” my designated witness care officer wrote.No doubt said ‘witness care officer’ is well-versed in politically-correct garbage, but not in coherent English or actual ‘customer service’…
I turned to the officer in charge of my case for a fuller explanation. He said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) didn’t think the artist’s sketch and the suspect looked alike. Moreover, “they have grave concerns about the fact that you had been drinking on the night”. The case had been dropped, he said, due to lack of evidence.Which rather makes you wonder how it is all those other cases, the historical ones, can go ahead, doesn’t it?
Siobhan Blake, deputy chief crown prosecutor, admits the CPS could improve their witness briefing. “The CPS is running pilots looking at the way we discuss, with victims and witnesses, the court process. We’re intending to roll out next year an enhanced system of explanation to victims and witnesses. We’ve identified that as a key area. It’s not meant to be a memory test. Or in any way a situation designed to trick people or trip them up.” Yet several criminal lawyers I spoke to were amazed that I didn’t anticipate my case stumbling on the grounds that I’d been drinking. Only an “idiot witness”, one told me, wouldn’t work out for themselves that their alcohol intake would be an issue. In cases dependent on witness testimony, our adversarial legal system pits one person’s word against another.Yes. Of course it does. How can you not have realised this?
In cases of sexual assault where proving or disproving consent is the critical issue, cross-examination can be particularly traumatic. But the system sees its purpose to convict the guilty and acquit the innocent, regardless of the vulnerability of a witness.What about the vulnerability of the falsely accused?
Sarah Vine, a criminal barrister who specialises in sex cases, explains that her approach to questioning a witness “is not about you being discredited, regarded as a liar. It’s about the forensic, almost objective, reliability of your evidence.” The low conviction rate of sexual assaults in Britain, Vine suggests, is not a failure but rather evidence of a robust, effective criminal justice system. The stigma that comes with a conviction for sexual assault or domestic violence is so great – a “mark of Cain”- that Vine is adamant it must be proven to the highest possible criminal standard. The worst outcome is the conviction of an innocent. “You can’t have a system where you can just walk in and go, I demand this happens because I said so,” she says. Another senior barrister explains: “When we come to assess a witness, all of us take into account certain parts of their behaviour. If they are a 50-year-old charity worker who has led an unblemished life, we are more inclined to believe them than a 23-year-old with 50 drug convictions. I wouldn’t want to go through it,” she adds. “It’s not a pleasant process. It’s uncomfortable even when there’s not much at stake. But what’s the alternative?”Well, quite. What is the alternative, other than to accept the SJWs demands and go along with the loony feminist brigade’s insistence that women never lie, despite the evidence to the contrary?
I’ve no doubt Phoebe feels hard done by, but the law can never take account of someone’s feelings when deciding if there’s a case to answer.
A system that did this would not be justice.
But then, it seems that’s just what we are indeed heading for, with the appalling case of Poppi Worthington.
A case where the state’s agents fail so spectacularly that they spend three years attempting to cover it up, then simply declare a man guilty of a vile crime without benefit of a trial, and watch as the lynch mob promptly turn their fire on him, and not on Cumbria Police and social services…