My bags are searched and I’m frisked on entering the court building. All the cleaners and security staff at the court are employed by the company for which I’ve been doing temporary work. The cleaners in particular have an air of brisk efficiency. I smile at them and tell a cleaner how lovely and bright a door looks. After all, their efforts are paying my wages – at least when I turn up for work. Although I won’t be paid for it, I spend most breaks checking emails and firing off emails or phone calls to my team. They’re being proactive and efficient while I’m away, and I’m grateful.
The court usher, Megan, collects us early from the lounge and we wait in the antechamber until 10.25. In court, the evidence begins with another prosecution witness: Ned Richards. Richards too sustained a head injury requiring four staples. Again, we’re shown a photo. He has a reasonable recall of events but can’t identify anyone. His evidence concluded, the jury is sent out for a coffee break in the lounge while the lawyers discuss legal issues.
We’re recalled after noon and the Crown’s star witness is produced. This is Daniel Hart, who was not attacked and is confident he has a clear recollection of the evening.
Several months after the brawl, Hart viewed an ID parade. This is now done by showing the witness videos of nine faces each – front and profiles. He went through three of these in video rooms at the police station, and in each video, identified a defendant. It is his identifications, of which he is certain, that have brought Messrs Goodman, Drummond and Wick into the dock today
Hart’s story is that, on arrival at the bar, Merrick and Richards went straight inside. He remained outside with Matthew Brooks. There was a group of males a few feet away from them. Goodman approached from this group and offered Hart some coke. Hart declined, and went straight inside. Brooks remained outside to finish his cigarette. Hart believed the group were about to offer drugs to his friend as well.
Shortly afterwards, Matthew Brooks entered the bar followed by two angry men from the group. Hart and his friends intervened, saying they were sorry and didn’t want any trouble. This seemed to calm matters, and the men left. Not for long. They returned in force, at least four of them, storming into the bar and determined to attack.
Hart was lucky. He’d fallen into conversation with a stranger, who pulled him out of the way. Hart wasn’t involved in the brawl, but saw everything that happened.
Apart from saying Wick repeatedly hit Matt Brooks, Daniel Hart is hazy as to who exactly did what. He just says all of the defendants were involved in the fight.
It was over quickly – the CCTV shows it taking thirty seconds. Once the police arrived, Hart went with them at once to make a statement, so what he told them was very fresh in his mind at the time.
Bastow plays the CCTV again and asks Hart to identify himself in it. He can’t.
This is the Crown’s star witness, so the gloves are off as far as the defence counsel are concerned. Before, they’ve been meek as lambs; now they are wolves going for his jugular.
Smith says that Hart alleged the man who wanted to sell him cocaine had a distinctive mark on his face. Goodman has no such mark.
Hart has said the coke seller looked Asian and Smith asks what this means. Hart says he meant Middle Eastern. How then is this Asian, Smith wants to know. He says Miss Shah is Asian. The judge says wryly that the Middle East is in Asia. Miss Shah is unimpressed. “Your Honour, it is not,” she declares.
Miss Shah represents Drummond, who has not been specifically mentioned but was identified by Hart. She starts by talking like a schoolmistress, saying she assumes Daniel Hart has never given evidence in a court before. He agrees he has not. She says, well it is a serious matter, and again he agrees.
Her focus is to prove his memory is wrong. Did he really only have four pints, as he said, she muses. He would have been over the limit to drive.
Hart is composed. “It was over 8 hours,” he points out, adding, “But no, I wouldn’t have driven.”
She is hectoring now. “But if you had six pints, your concentration would be impaired. You can’t be certain you identified the attackers correctly.”
“It was only four or five,” he says, “and my memory is clear.” All of the attackers had leaped off the page to him in the ID parade, he tells her.
“But that was months later. I put it to you that you cannot be sure.”
On the contrary, he says, “I am sure.”
She points out he’d said he, Darren Merrick and Ned Richards had interposed themselves between Matthew Brooks and the two men following him into the bar; however, CCTV footage shows Merrick alone doing so.
“I must have been further back, out of camera range,” he says calmly.
Miss Barry is similarly snarly, her lip curling. It is as if the Furies have been unleashed in the court. “You said you were between Matthew Brooks and the two men but you were mistaken, weren’t you?”
“Yes, I was mistaken.”
“What else, then, are you mistaken about? How can you be certain you saw the defendants that night? I put it to you that your identification could be incorrect.”
“I don’t believe so.”
She then says he only identified Wick because he was short. Hart points out that he did not see Wick’s height at the identity parade, only his face. He had mainly seen Wick in profile hitting Matthew Brooks, and it was the profile he picked out at the ID parade.
Miss Barry finishes with the hapless Hart at 1.25pm. The jury retires for a late, but extended lunch break, as there will be more legal discussions. We are told to return at 3pm.
Andy announces over his mic there are some big trials next week – they will last five, seven and twelve weeks. We have to fill in forms to say if we’re willing to serve on them, and if not, why not. We may be called to explain ourselves to a judge on that. Andy says he doesn’t have enough people yet, but another batch of jurors is due in fresh on Monday. He seems reasonably sure he can persuade enough of them to volunteer. I complete the form to explain I’m already providing temporary cover.
Despite spending the first forty minutes of the lunchbreak on some work, I get to stroll in the sunshine for lunch at a cafe. At £5, it’s just within our daily allowance from the court. I meet George Drummond on the way. We rush past each other without eye contact. He looks somehow distant, possibly bored but more likely stressed. Mostly, the defendants are looking down while in the dock, so I guess they’re playing video games.
Once we return to court, we’re not there for long.
“We are now going to see agreed statements,” the judge tells us. “They’re statements in writing of evidence on which everyone has agreed. They’ll be typed up tonight, so come back tomorrow morning for 10.30am.”
My jury service took place a month ago. Read more about it here – I posted a blog every day this week:
Note – all names have been changed