Court in the act

I’m so busy at the moment: work is a bit mad; I’ve been given a date for my driving course, which is very exciting; and I spent a day last week at Crown Court in a wounding case where I had chased a suspect before a colleague had caught them ahead. And that is what I’m going to write about: Crown Court.

This case, on the face of it, was a strong one: a glass-in-the-face attack at a pub, the suspect legged it as we turned up. I chased him until I lost sight of him rounding a corner, a colleague was on that street ready for him. He had blood all over his clothes and another officer, at the scene, seized the glass that had his fingerprints on it and the victim’s blood. So, even without witnesses – and there were some – the guy was stuffed.

But, as is often the case, they plead not guilty and opt for Crown Court trial. That means that all the witnesses have to turn up on the day and hang around while well- spoken men and women in gowns and wigs bargain with each other. The offender was in custody but we still had his family hanging menacingly around; though we made sure that the witnesses were well away from them in the witness care area. They stay there until they are called to give evidence.

All day we paced and waited, eventually the court had whipped through the easy stuff, like plea and direction hearings and sentencing, and then, after lunch, it was our turn. So having sat there all morning we got to the point of having a jury sworn in and guess what he did (at this point anyone who knows anything about the legal process will be shouting the answer at their computer screens): he pleaded guilty. Agghhhhhh.

Why do they do it? A whole morning waiting – time off work for witnesses, court time booked etc etc. The simple answer is that a guilty plea, even at this late stage, will get them a sentencing concession; they wait until the last minute just to see whether all the witnesses will turn up -they don’t always, and this means frantic chasing around to find them.

Anyway, I suppose the result is still the same: GUILTY.


April 23, 2007. crime, police.


  1. Am Gerichtshof Ihrer Majestät « Obiter Dictum replied:

    […] Zeugen abschätzen will, wird ihm dies – zumindest von den Wartenden – negativ ausgelegt. Eine englische Polizistin beschreibt den Gerichtsalltag in ihrem Blog wie […]

  2. sarahpolicelady replied:

    What the comment above says, according to Babelfish is:

    To measure, is laid out it this – at least of the waiting – wants witnesses negatively. An English police woman describes the court everyday life in her Blog as

    And, I think, is a reference to my blog in the blog of one of my readers….thank you for that!

  3. Christian replied:

    Hi Sarah,

    you are correct. I write a law blog (“blawg”) and introduced your blog to my German readers. I also made some comments on the differences between the English and the German legal system.

    The case you describe is a very good example: In England, it may be unnecessary to call the witnesses, when the accused pleas guilty. Under German law, that would be impossible, because in most cases every witness must be heard.

  4. Grateful replied:

    Where do you go when you want to give a BIG SHOUT OUT for the police?

    Well, I came here, because I wanted to let folk know what a brilliant job they do.

    Imagine (if you can) that you were having an affair with a woman who lived 200 miles away (please don’t judge me – these things happen). Imagine, further, that you were on the phone to her when her husband appeared.

    And that you heard her screaming before she hung up. What would you do?

    I hope you understand why I didn’t personally want to ring my girlfriend back, and why I rang 999 instead.

    The response was swift,efficient and suitably delicate.
    They rang my girlfriend to check that everything was OK
    (it wasn’t – she’d been beaten up, but her husband had, afterwards, driven off). They then rang me back to tell me the situation, so that I could ring her.

    Now THAT is sensitivity and compassion and understanding of human life ABOVE AND BEYOND.

    Thank you, Policepeople.

    And thank you, Sarah, for your fine blog and providing a place for me to post this.

  5. sarahpolicelady replied:

    It’s really nice to hear when people are pleased with something we do; most often people forget to be pleased because they’re busy dealing with whatever awful thing has happened to them.

    Most UK forces have websites where you can leave feedback – I know that whoever dealt with the incident, from the communications room staff to the front line officers, will be glad to hear you are pleased.

  6. sarahpolicelady replied:

    Does the German court system not get terribly clogged up with having to hear all the witnesses?

  7. Duty - an old fashioned word « The Slim Blue Line replied:

    […] – an old fashioned word The comment from Grateful in my last post set me thinking about some of the reasons people give for being in the police and […]

  8. Am Gerichtshof Ihrer Majestät - Obiter Dictum replied:

    […] abschätzen will, wird ihm dies – zumindest von den Wartenden – negativ ausgelegt. Eine englische Polizistin beschreibt den Gerichtsalltag in ihrem Blog wie […]

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