They look so young and innocent, such sombre faces.
They were groomed of course; they knew what was expected of them. Older, more experienced, men and women told them what to do.
How could they refuse such powerful authoritative voices? In truth, they couldn’t refuse – for each of these young people was personally selected by the powerful Crown Prosecution Service to act in the ‘public interest’ and prosecute an ageing celebrity for ‘historic sex crimes’ – and each one of them came second.
Coming second in your law finals might be considered an accolade; coming second when you have finally managed to make it to the glossy heights of ‘silk’ or QC and it is a two horse race between you and whichever barrister the plaintiff has managed to afford is not considered an accolade. It is not something you want on your CV. In fact, whisper it quietly, but in those circumstances, coming second is sometimes referred to as ‘losing the case’…
How proud they must have been when the clerk slipped the coveted brief onto their desk, bound with pink tape. The CPS were entrusting them with a high value case ‘in the public interest’. Did they phone their Mothers with pride? We will never know. How many hours did they toil with sinking heart as they trawled through the ‘evidence’ and formatted their triumphant closing speech?
To no avail for Mark Heywood QC (the ‘Nigel Evans’ case, not that he mentions that on his web page), Miranda Moore QC (a temporary reprieve for she prosecuted in the as yet incomplete Dave Lee Travis case – no doubt her web site will catch up eventually), Anne Whyte QC ( who proudly stepped out to oppose Ken Roach’s barrister – I guess her web site will catch up too) and Eleanor Laws QC (whose web site does at least mention R v Turner, the Le Vell case, just doesn’t mention who won…)
It’s not as though these QCs were unprepared or inexperienced. They are all top flight ‘silks’ – and would certainly not have come ‘cheap’ for the CPS – they definitely didn’t come cheap for the defendants, who were forced to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds from their own pocket for matching expertise. It was the quality of the evidence that the CPS had provided them with which failed to convince a jury that the man in the dock was a dangerous paedophile. You can’t make a Silk’s purse out of a pig’s ear…no matter how many pig’s ears you have up your sleeve.
You might imagine that the CPS is just flush with money, that they always put such expensive legal merchandise in front of a judge and jury – but nothing could be further from the truth. They are continually wailing that they are short of funds.
Nearly a quarter of the Crown’s state prosecutors have been cut as part of budget savings, leaving many in the justice system, including senior judges, expressing grave concerns about the state’s performance in some criminal trials.
It is not the public that have been complaining – it is judges. The CPS have what they term a ‘selection tree’ to decide from how high up the legal tree they will pluck their prosecuting counsel. Before appointing a QC the CPS must feel that ‘Irrespective of the offence type, […] the case feature[s] substantial complicating factors of gravity, sensitivity, complexity or responsibility which could not be adequately prepared and presented other than by Queen’s Counsel?
Obviously when Aaron Mann took it into his head to strangle mother-of-four Claire O’Connor and drive round with her in the boot of his car for four days, the CPS didn’t consider it as grave, sensitive or complex a case as – say – Dave Lee Travis being accused of ‘jiggling’ a woman’s boobs. They sent along a barrister to prosecute who made fundamental errors of law, did not understand the pathologist’s evidence and was ‘not competent to do the job’ according to the enraged Judge, who halted the trial and ordered a retrial.
Later, the same month, the CPS apparently didn’t consider a case of alleged rape to be particularly grave, sensitive or complex, resulting in Judge Jeremy Gold QC threatened to clear the defendant without a trial after ‘lamentable failures’ of disclosure by the CPS.
In Chester, Judge Elgan Edwards blew a fuse when the CPS fielded a barrister who had not had ‘time to prepare his case’ – despite the defendants having been arrested a year beforehand.
“This is a serious case and it should be taken seriously. How long does it take to prepare a case? You still haven’t bothered to draw up an indictment.
“These defendants have had this hanging over them for the last 11 months. This court is just not putting up with this kind of disdain.”
Yet when ‘breast jiggling’ and ‘hand on bum’ cases appear, the CPS do not count the cost, they throw their best barristers into the case. It is, apparently in the ‘public interest’.
In 2012 there were 45 homicide trials that failed because the CPS prosecuting counsel provided insufficient or no evidence after a not guilty plea. This was equivalent to one in twenty homicide cases and a rise of 50% from 2010.
How relieved they must be this afternoon that finally one of their glossy thoroughbreds has come home with a result. What celebrations there will be in Red Lion Chambers tonight.
Step forward the triumphant Rosina Cottage QC, saviour of the CPS’s battered reputation. A guilty verdict at last. She managed to prove to the jury that Max Clifford was a nasty little man…
Did it really take a QC to convince a jury of that?