I have just finished my second day of a week long mini-pupilage with a very reputable firm of barristers in Cardiff. I’m doing OK in Chambers and not too badly whilst walking along a busy main street between Chambers and Crown Court but the courtrooms themselves, however, are a complete nightmare!!
The crown courts in Cardiff are about 150+ years old. They are made of beautiful Portland stone and have (what I presume is) oak clad walls. The ceilings are very high. The whole place resembles a museum, which is quite ironic really.
In the main foyer where, the graduate and under-graduate crims congregate, sounds to me a lot like a radio that is off-station, just low-level background hum.
The courtroom itself is much the same, until the judge arrives. I sit right behind counsel (looking at their backs, so the sound waves are moving away from me). If I hear 20% of what they have said then I think myself lucky.
I can hear the defendant very well as s/he is right behind me (but all any of them have said so far is ‘guilty’, ‘thank you’ and one ‘f**k off’). Add to this ushers waltzing around for apparently no reason, barristers back and forth dropping files on desks, seat-backs flapping shut and solicitor’s whispering to one another then the whole place starts to resemble a zoo.
The place calms down in time for sentencing and as the judge is facing me then I am able, by a combination of hearing and lip-reading, keep track of what he is saying. This afternoon was a bit annoying as we had a very large clerk (think Eddie Murphy in the Klumps) right in front of a small judge (think Stan Laurel’s physique at Danny DeVito’s height) = total acoustic eclipse! But never mind, the reporter from the regional newspaper was there so at least I can read all about it.
I know that way, way in the future I am more likely to be talking about fraudulent accounting, VAT evasion or computer hacking than the s18/s20 OAPA & the usual possession with intent, but I do seriously have to wonder whether I could faithfully represent the best interests of my client in the middle of this riot.
So back again tomorrow, unless I call in sick. I wonder if they would believe me if I said I had AFS (auditory frustration syndrome).
* AFS, if you didn’t already know, has few physical symptoms, other than raised blood pressure; the suffer will complain of feeling cheesed-off, of having just made the biggest mistake of his/her life; may also be accompanied by repeated dog-walking, chain smoking and/or excessive lager consumption.