Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Doing Your Duty

Croydon Crown CourtIt was ten years ago today that I found myself summoned to Croydon Crown Court and then spent four months under close supervision in a confined space with eleven others. I had spent three days getting to know intimately the jurors’ waiting room, which resembled a provincial airport departure lounge without the retail diversions (unless you counted the canteen).

Like everyone who is called up, I was expecting a two week break from the 9 to 5 routine, replacing it with a 10 to 4 routine, but then on the Wednesday a long string of names were called for a trial that might last up to two months. I somehow ended up in the final twelve. I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but I had already dodged been excused jury service twice previously: once as a civilian working on police business (at a previous firm where we did a lot of work on mortgage fraud cases for what was then SO6) and again when my next boss wrote a well crafted pleading letter. The drawback, I think, was that this not only put me firmly on their radar for some “payback”, but it also made it clear which profession I was in and so, lo and behold, I got called up to serve on a VAT fraud case.

Looking back it did provide me with some unique CPD* opportunities – poring over accountants’ working files, hearing how Customs & Excise VAT investigations worked, and noting how an innocuous and actually perfectly innocent fact, through the eyes of an inexperienced VAT inspector, led them to uncover a genuine fraud.

As the trial progressed so did the Tramlink works along the 353 bus route every day. The trial lasted nearly four months less a few days. Yes, it was more than two months, yes it went beyond Easter (they like their long Easter breaks), yes it went beyond the date of my election to the Council – the following day I had to stand up and ask the judge for the afternoon off to get myself sworn in at the Council. It was a Friday afternoon so funnily enough there wasn’t much resistance.

Like seniors teasing the new first years, we would enliven the regular treks to and from the jury room by walking past the newbies saying “Good luck. We’re in our third month now. See you after Easter!”. Their faces were a picture … once they realised we weren’t joking.

The Chartered Accountant in the dock was found guilty by a majority (I think we were into our third day of deliberation from memory) and got, I think, three or four years. After the verdict it then emerged he was also facing charges from the Police and Inland Revenue, to which he changed his plea to guilty.

Anyway, here’s hoping that Dizzy has better luck.

*Continuing Professional Development

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