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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

My second trial as a juror finally came to an end this afternoon after five days of intense evidence, arguments and debate. My first experience of jury service last week was a simple case of handling stolen goods. This one was a little more challenging. The defendant faced a total of twelve charges: four counts of sexual activity with children, four counts of sexual assault, and four counts of offering illegal drugs to children.

We found him not guilty on all charges. Which is quite a responsibility to take, and not a decision you want to get wrong. When I arrived at the court last Monday, the first thing I was given was a leaflet telling me how to get support from The Samaritans if I end up on a case I find upsetting. It never really came close to that, but it has to be said that a trial of this nature does take it out of you emotionally.

For an entire week (five days in court, two days in thought) you're completely immersed in the minutiae of a case which affects many people's lives in numerous different ways - all of them negative. And you have the weight of those negative outcomes on your shoulders. Strangers' lives will be ruined - temporarily at least - regardless of the final decision you make. But you want to be sure that you don't ruin things for the wrong person. And sadly, you may never know if you did.

Having spent each day listening to conflicting accounts, making copious notes, and trying to sift through the weight of evidence in an attempt to get close to the truth, you're sent home with the advice not to think about the case until the next day. Advice it's impossible to follow. If you have any kind of conscience, you live the trial, day and night, till it's over. And probably for a while afterwards. On arrival this morning, three of my fellow jurors told me they didn't sleep last night.

So it's been an utterly draining week, and I've been feeling increasingly unwell all day. I'm very happy with the verdict in the case, but the outcome of the trial for me personally is exhaustion, headache and nausea. I was back in time to pick up Amelie from nursery today, and there was a sign on the door as I went in, warning that they've had six confirmed cases of vomiting and diarrhoea this week. I've felt steadily more sick and achey as the evening's gone on. I just don't know if it's a pre-school bug or post-traumatic stress.


Phil's Mum said...

Oh dear!  And are you due in Court again tomorrow?

Phil said...

I have to phone to find out. They're doing their best to find a short little trial to keep me busy for the rest of the week.

Peter Chapman said...

Was there a charge of eating a hamster too? (Couldn't resist)