There is probably an adage with the gist that it’s valuable to try something new and for many and obvious reasons: new lessons, experiences, awakenings, synapses, self-esteem, novelty, awareness… And so it is this month when I visit the Old Bailey – the most famous court in the land with one of the world’s oldest legal systems. Not as the accused but as a juror.
As a genre I like a courtroom drama. The Runaway Jury and A Few Good Men being two of my favourite films and lets hear it for My Cousin Vinny – the perfect comedy film – so much funnier than the gross out fare that is currently shoved down our gullets.
But I don’t expect my experience in court will be anywhere near as exciting as Mr Cruise vanquishing Mr Nicholson or Joe Pesci and his wise-ass schtick running amuck in an Alabama courthouse.
But I am excited nonetheless and somewhat flattered also.
My dad would have made an excellent juror. He was a man of great wisdom. He had an unerring knack of being right. A man brimming with sage advice – if only I’d had the wisdom to heed it more often. Anyway, my dad was never called upon and I think this always rankled, although he never said so. Too dignified but quietly disgruntled.
To be on a jury feels like a marker to me. To be amongst twelve good true men and women. To be considered a person on whom our judicial processes can rely. It is easy to get carried away in this self-aggrandising vein. As though I have been especially selected. As though a judge reads my blog and concludes that I have the required chops.
When of course the selection for jurors is completely arbitrary. People just plucked from an electoral roll of many eligible millions. Or from a list of tax payers perhaps – which is interesting because with Covid, for the first time in my working life I have no tax to pay.
My call up is less romantic than being chosen or selected. I am just a name and a number (national insurance number) called upon by a government computer and a letter is dispatched informing me to show up or else.
Refusing is not an option. It’s a crime in fact, although this thought never occurred to me. To begin with, I am too compliant and civic minded, nor have I ever broken any laws (within reason). Plus I am sufficiently intrigued by the judicial process and open to new experiences, observing which is how I have made my living all these years – that is until 2020/1.
Not that I will be able to report on anything from within. Don’t count on a witty blog post entitled – Her Majesty’s Crown against Mr John Doe and his missing wife…
The witty musings of my day in court adjudicating on whether some bloke forced himself on a woman known as “A” or whether in fact A was up for it all along.
Such writings might go viral (the blogger’s Holy Grail) but at the cost of me reappearing at the Old Bailey but this time in the dock. Jail time for clicks. A genuine equation but not one worth considering.
Even mentioning here – that I have been called up and I am scheduled for the Old Bailey might itself be illegal. The online registration form did include some Do’s and Don’ts – which I didn’t read of course. Much like the cookies we blithely accept and the Terms and Conditions that we blindly sign.
My greatest fear is that I am saddled with a case that takes longer than the two weeks I am scheduled for. Some cases take months, even years and jurors have no opt out. Although, perhaps on my first morning I will be released, because isn’t it a thing that jurors mustn’t be known to the defendant? And as famous as I was but now with a blog as big as mine!
We shall see.
In the movies, the jurors always elect a leader. The dependable type who can make sense of the evidence and take the lead. If I was writing this blog in my 20’s I would expect to be this leader. To be the man, as it were.
But in my 50’s I know better. Older and wiser now, I know that I am no leader of men. I am a follower. I will sit quietly and ponder. I will expend much energy trying to concentrate and to be honest and true. But I will be working also. Because whatever I experience and see, it will inform my future and will no doubt appear in my fiction, my comedy and my general writing.
As another adage goes.
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