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Saturday, 7 January 2012

Soap justice...

I hope your not one of “those” Criminal lawyers....
i warn you in advance that this one is slightly about work :@) but it was inevitable at some point... so here goes...
Im never sure exactly what that question means. It seems to imply something negative. Something sinister. I am a criminal lawyer I reply. Oh they say....backing away...clutching their bag close to their side...
You see I think what they mean really is “you don’t defend criminals do you?” . they think that I would be bad to do that. It would be a preference to work for the Crown prosecution Serivce and be one of those nice lawyers that helps victims. Solves crimes. Generally saves the world.
Instead that stand in front of one of the other ones. A criminal defence one. As bad as our clients. Guilty of the same crimes. But slightly worse than the criminals because we in some way condone what they have done.... we make them look good when what they have done is so terrible they should not even be allowed to speak to defend themselves... let alone have an expensive lawyer do it for them. At the cost of the tax payer obviously.
Im not going to go over the point that of course not everyone tried for a crime is guilty of it. That the prosecution and pocice do make mistakes. That there can be miscarriages of justice. That we still have the notion of innocent until PROVEN guilty...
Its too hard to convince people that they could easily end up in the dock having done absolutely nothing wrong. They change their minds quick enough when they're banged up though.
I think that this misconception is born from the media. To be more specific, soaps. Not only soaps but also serial dramas, who have a good go at misrepresenting the true legal system as well.
Not only do they constantly get the law incorrect but also the procedure. This does not help those of us who have to advise real people.
When Gail stood before Wetherfield Magistrates Court at her first hearing, charged with the murder of her husband, her lawyer made a failed application for bail and she was remanded into custody. A good story. Factually incorrect.
You cannot make applications for bail at the first hearing in the Magistrates Court in a murder case. That was the law then and its the law now. Sure it hadn’t long changed, but changed it had.
 You try and explain that to clients who watched that episode. They believe that over us! That's the power of the media. “oh no we can make an application for bail I saw it on Corrie last night....” yeah well you can stand up and try that one then matey!
In Hollyoaks Zoe was tried for the murder of Sarah Barnes within about 6 weeks of her death....what?!!.... on what planet?.... In what town?.... Never would that happen. Not here that's for sure! You wouldn’t even be out of the  Magistrates court in reality. That's if you weren’t still on police bail.....
Im not even going to get started on some of the programmes that profess to be about the legal system....Law and Order UK is as fictional as an Enid Blyton novel and Judge John Deed certainly needs to be reported to the Judicial Standards Authority for his conduct.
What really riles me is when someone is credited as “legal advisor” in the credits. Who are they? Surely not practising lawyers. If they are they don’t practise in any area of law relevant to that particular episode.
I don’t watch anymore. It annoys me too much. Its also pretty annoying for anyone who happens to be in the same room as me when the programme is on. No matter how much I try I cannot help but correct any inaccuracies very loudly. Im that kind of geek.
The trouble is, as I have said that the clients often believe what they see on screen and this poses difficulties. You are often hard pressed for time in the cells at the Magistrates Court. You have to see your client before they go up into court and there is often a large volume of material to go through with them as well as advising them as to bail and procedure etc. There is not time to discuss why a particular soap has misrepresented a particular legal scenario.
They should be more careful. They really should. Its just a bugbear. Im sure reality is far more dull than the dramatisation they make of our laws for the small screen. If they showcased the reality of the Magistrates Court then it probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular.
If you don’t believe how wrong they can be in their presentation of the law and legal system, why not go and sit at the back of your local Magistrates Court for a morning. I swear you'll be shouting at you TV next time one of soaplands characters finds themselves in the dock.
Anyway...rant over...back to my happy place :@)

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