Tuesday 13 January 2009

”If that’s justice, I’m a banana…”

…as so famously said by Ian Hislop.

Well, I guess we’re all bananas now, courtesy of our old friend Judge Tabor who has hit the headlines again with yet another bizarre ruling:
A man accused of robbing a driving instructor walked free from court after a judge ruled his alleged victim was 'too believable' to give evidence, it has emerged.

Mother-of-two Denise Dawson, 36, was praised for being 'honest, utterly decent and brave' when she testified against Liam Perks, 20.

But the trial was stopped on the first day because Judge Jamie Tabor QC ruled her good character may unfairly sway the jury against the defendant.
Famed US lawyer Lionel Hutz would not comment on the brilliance of the judges’ actions, claiming ‘Hey, even I have some standards..!’
Judge Tabor, who last year freed a wife who had admitted trying to poison her husband, said he would have done the same with the Archbishop of Canterbury's son.

He told Bristol Crown Court: 'Denise Dawson was a particularly impressive witness because she showed courage, clarity of thought and was undoubtedly honest.

'The jury may lend more weight to her evidence than her facts allow. You cannot be sure she got it right.
Well, no. I thought that what that ‘trial’ business was supposed to do….? Guess I was wrong!
Mrs Dawson was furious after the ruling, which she branded a 'kick in the teeth', and says she is terrified because her alleged assailant is still walking the streets.

She said: 'The whole incident was a nightmare and I felt sick when I was told the trial had collapsed. What more can I do?

'I positively identified someone from a video ID parade and was prepared to risk everything in going to court but it's still not enough.'
Of course it’s not enough – it might have meant the judge had to send a poor, misunderstood lad to prison (or, more likely, a community sentence) and we can’t have that

M’learned friend wasn’t quite finished, and had one last kick in the teeth for all decent members of the public, though.
Despite calling a halt to the trial, Judge Tabor then offered her a £250 bravery award for her actions.
That’s wonderful, don’t you think? That pretty much sums up the attitude of the clowns in wigs that sit on the bench nowdays: ‘Well done for coming forward, here’s some cash from the public purse – but don’t think I’m going to carry out the job I’m paid to do, I just find it too one-sided, you see. All those scum standing there in the dock, and you victims looking all middle-class and respectable, I just can’t see the justice in it, my dear….’

Update: In the comments, Longrider raises the possibility of this being more the fault of the CPS.


Anonymous said...

It isn't just the fact that she was brave enough to put herself forward, her life will also have been on hold since the day she was attacked. I wonder how many times she had been warned for court and then not been required, how many days she couldn't work because of her injuries, having to attend police stations, and then courts too. Unbeleivable - but then the truth isn't really what justice in the UK is all about is it? Certainly not in the courts.

Sue said...

I'm far from an expert in law but surely the fact that the witness was believable is the problem of the defence?

Longrider said...

Reading the article (and it is the mail, so we do have to be careful), it looks as if the victim's account is the only evidence presented. I would suggest that it is the prosecution, not the judge who let her down. One eyewitness account isn't usually enough on its own without some corroboration. if that's all they had, then dismissing it due to lack of evidence was the right decision.

JuliaM said...

"I'm far from an expert in law but surely the fact that the witness was believable is the problem of the defence?"

You'd think so...

"One eyewitness account isn't usually enough on its own without some corroboration..."

But surely the briliant legal minds of the CPS would have taken that into account..

Ah, I see the possible problem.

Longrider said...

Ah, I see the possible problem.

Indeed - that is the problem. The burden of proof in English criminal law is "beyond reasonable doubt". One eyewitness report without supporting evidence leaves room for reasonable doubt. A very credible witness may cause the jury to forget that doubt - hence the judge's decision. Given the failure of the CPS to prepare their case properly with corroborating evidence, he had no alternative. The victim, of course, gets shafted again...

Anonymous said...

Fire this smug fat bastard, and fire him now. Then burn his wig.

North Northwester said...

From Wikipedia, bless it.

Blackstone's formulation.

"better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer", expressed by the English jurist William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in the 1760s.

The twelfth-century legal theorist Maimonides, expounding on this passage as well as Exodus 23:7 ("the innocent and righteous slay thou not") argued that executing an accused criminal on anything less than absolute certainty would progressively lead to convictions merely "according to the judge's caprice. Hence the Exalted One has shut this door" against the use of presumptive evidence, for "it is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death."

Sir John Fortescue's De Laudibus Legum Angliae (c. 1470) states that "one would much rather that twenty guilty persons should escape the punishment of death, than that one innocent person should be condemned and suffer capitally."

Similarly, on October 3, 1692, while decrying the Salem witch trials, Increase Mather adapted Fortescue's statement and wrote, "It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that the Innocent Person should be Condemned."

Other commentators have echoed the principle; Benjamin Franklin stated it as, "it is better [one hundred] guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer".

Where I live, there are a lot of guilty going around free - my wing mirror was ripped off for the tenth time in six years on Saturday. A small thing, I know: but we get our murders (next street but one a year ago) and numerous assaults and affrays in town most nights and there are black hole sink estates we'd better not talk about, and still our multi-billion pound per year justice system can't deal with frequent, repeated, and vicious criminality without transforming itself into the FOurth Reich, or the USSB?