Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places. Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger. Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Thursday, March 22, 2018

What happens when you give evidence in court?

Sage Gateshead, the best view in Newcastle from the law courts side of the tyne, mandy charlton, what happens when you give evidence in court



This week has been a strange and unusual one, I spent 2 days sitting in a special witness suite at the courts waiting to give evidence and I'm free to talk about it now that the case is closed but it's left me feeling quite raw and it's also left me not wanting to write,  woke up during the night last night covered in sweat having the worst nightmare I can't now recollect but for the first couple of days this week I didn't even sleep properly.  A sure sign that my brain isn't happy, I thought today I'd sit down and tell you what happens when you go to court as a witness because one day you might have to do it and there's not a lot of first person accounts out there, I might keep it a little vague just to protect myself but I'll write as much as I think I can.

So the first thing to say is that courtrooms don't look anything like they do on TV and Judge Rinder doesn't preside over hearings, well at least not up north, I'm still a little disappointed about that!  Did you know that the public gallery is usually just a section next to the Jury box, it's rare it's up above the courtroom unless it's a very old court, the ones in Newcastle tend to be more reflective of the era they were built, i.e. the 1980's, yep, carpets and everything!

Court proceedings take a long time and even when the officials tell you something is about to happen, don't be fooled.  On the first day, when I was in the witness suite pretty much nothing happened and I was sent home at 3.30pm, I'd had 4 cups of coffee and 4 chocolate digestives, I could have gone out for food but I was warned that the defendant might also be there so, yeah, not such a great idea.

On the second day I was told to come in for 10 and that I would give my evidence at 10.30am, except one of the jurors became ill and a whole new jury had to be sworn in, apparently sometimes they continue with just 11 but that also gives the defendant grounds for appeal.

Finally I was called at 12.30 on Tuesday, I stood in the witness box as my legs shook but I spoke with a clear voice, addressed the jury and answered all of the questions to the best of my ability, the Prosecutor was lovely as was the judge but then they were on my side.  The defence, not so much, this part was straight out of TV dramas "I put it to you Mrs Charlton that you didn't see A, B and C, I'm right aren't I?  You actually saw...." This was actually the best that could have happened because it instantly meant they were calling me a liar and so I fought back "actually no, you're wrong, I saw A, B and C, just as I said in my statement"

The whole process including cross-examination (which does, I admit make you feel like you've just committed some heinous crime) lasted around 45 minutes and it's something I don't wish to repeat.  Then the Judge thanked me and asked me not to speak about any of it until the case was closed, something that happened yesterday.

I received a message last night from the lovely policeman I'd spoken to throughout my time there, he disappointingly told me that the defendant had played the game and been found Not Guilty, I went through all of that anxiety, my legs shaking, nearly collapsing once the adrenalin left me when I exited the court room.  I'd had a letter from my doctor excusing me because of the potential effects and still I chose to do it because I wanted to make sure justice was done.

Was justice done, well personally I don't believe it was. I still believe there's someone out there playing the system harming people over and over and then never being punished because either the witnesses don't go to court or he plays the whole system.  I'm glad I did it though, at least the due process took place and I feel sorry for the jury who must always be in the most difficult position and though I said what I knew was true, who knows what else they heard that day.

Would I do it again?  Yes, and you must too or bad people win, we must teach our children to stand up for what's right, we must believe in truth and justice always winning even if sometimes things don't quite go the way you think they should.
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