Twelve Good Men and True

It was the second episode of the second series of ‘Inspector George Gently’ that we watched last night. Lee Ingleby’s Sergeant sidekick to Martin Shaw’s Inspector is an interesting departure from the usual device of a rapport between the two leading characters on which such productions hang. He is well played as an unpleasant, prejudiced, individual defending himself against his own vulnerability. This makes the partnership less than ideal, which works in a different way from the more amenable pairings that go back as far as Starsky and Hutch. I have to say that I am not convinced that the series would be compelling without this dynamic.

After television and aperitifs came a meal of spare rib casserole followed by a successful combination of chocolate cake topped with tiramisu, with which I drank a little red wine.

We then had a pleasant evening’s conversation with the usual cut and thrust between Maggie and me in which the others made helpful contributions. Prompted by the recent sex abuse trials of UK celebrities, we discussed the efficacy of the jury system. Neither Cath nor Maggie as served as members of ‘Twelve Good Men And True’, although Mike had once and I had twice.

I was rather surprised to be called a second time approximately ten years after my first stint because I had thought that each man or woman was expected to attend only once in their lifetime.My first spell had been in my late twenties when I played in insignificant role, although I do remember having persuaded a near neighbour I had never met to change his mind.

By my mid thirties my profession had made me proficient at managing and facilitating groups of people, and I am convinced that the jury system has more to do with group dynamics than anything else. Perhaps that is why, in six short cases, I was elected foreman five times.

One of the peculiarites of the English system is that we are expected to take no time at all in choosing our leader. We don’t know each other. Perhaps presence is significant. A larger group than the round dozen is called for compulsory duty. Each prospective member is presented to the defence barrister who has the right to reject anyone he or she does not like the look of. That way, although everyone must appear daily for the allotted period, individual juries have constantly changing membership. Sometimes, for the short cases we heard, there were people we had worked with before, but this is not necessarily so.

One gentleman proudly got himself rejected each time by wearing a pin-striped suit with a copy of The Times protruding conspicuously from his jacket pocket.

The one case that really sticks in my mind must have featured the shortest jury deliberation on record. We are not permitted to discuss trials outside the jury room. This comes after the summing up when we are herded together, given instructions, shut in, and told to press a bell either when we have reached a decision or we need something. As soon as we assembled on this occasion, without discussion, I asked: ‘Shall I ring the bell?’. All agreed. I did so. The usher entered the room and asked what we needed. I said we didn’t require anything because we had reached a verdict. We all trooped back and, when asked, I announced: ‘Not guilty’.

What had happened was that two key witnesses diverged so precisely that it was clear that one was lying. This had been so blatant that a senior police officer had appeared in the courtroom to observe what was going on. I, for one, regretted an earlier guilty verdict we had given had hinged on the evidence of that same witness for the prosecution.

Le Code Bar perchThis morning I began reading Susan Hill’s detective novel ‘The Betrayal of Trust’.

Before I went up to my usual Sunday perch outside Le Code Bar to send this post, I telephoned Jackie at home. She told me that on the evening of 14th 32 diners had been rescued from a coastal restaurant at Milford on Sea that had been pounded by large rocks thrown up by massive seas and powerful winds. The windows had been smashed by the terrifying missiles, giving the staff and sixteen couples a Valentine’s Night to remember. The house we are about to buy is about two miles inland from there.

rue Saint Jacques opposite

Fortunately the weather here has cleared. This was the evening view of the garden immediately opposite our house.

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