Exhibit C – the “paedophile”

This post is one of a series that seeks to dispel the myth that everyone who ends up in court is a scumbag criminal. It is another example of how easy it is for good guys to end up in court. It is another case that illustrates why everyone should be entitled to independent, quality, legal representation and the chance to go to trial and clear their name.

At the moment your rights are under threat from proposals in the MOJ consultation paper Transforming legal aid.  I hope that reading this post will help you understand what these proposals will mean for our justice system.  I hope that once you understand you will want to sign the Save UK Justice petition to have these proposals debated in parliament.

NB this is a true story. Certain details that don’t relate to the factual and legal process have been changed to protect those who were involved.

Warning: this is about a little boy who was sexually abused. It may be triggering. Please don’t read any further if you might be affected.

In the beginning

I first heard about Exhibit C over dinner. My husband was complaining about being on another child abuse case. He would love to be able to refuse work like this, but due to the Cab Rank rule he can’t.

From the initial papers it looked obvious that Exhibit C was guilty. This is often the case, that is the purpose of prosecution papers. Over the next few weeks more papers trickled in (the CPS rarely serve everything at once when they can string it out) and the evidence became compelling.

Exhibit C’s 6 year old son had told two of his friends that his daddy had done horrible things to him. The friends told their mums. The mums went round to the little boy’s house to tell his mother.  They repeated what their children had said to the mother and her new husband. The husband spent an hour or so talking to the little boy. The husband relayed what the little boy said to the police. The little boy (my husband would say “the complainant”) had been interviewed by the police and repeated the allegations. There were no inconsistencies.

Stereotypes

As the trial date drew nearer my husband set up a meeting with Exhibit C. Often he has to go to prison to meet clients but as Exhibit C had never been in trouble in his life he was out on bail, even though he had been accused of horrible crimes against his own son.

Exhibit C was not who my husband was expecting. I know we are not supposed to stereotype, and paedophiles can be hiding in plain sight and look just like the rest of us. But when you have met as many sex offenders as my husband has, you know that they do tend to be of a certain “type”. Usually a combination of greasy, smelly, creepy, inadequate, waster.

Exhibit C came across as a stable, humorous, articulate grafter. He said he hadn’t done it and would plead not guilty. Clients often say they aren’t guilty. If they say they are not guilty that is the way that my husband will play it. He wasn’t there at the time of the alleged offence, so he doesn’t know if they are guilty or not.

Video nasties

A few of days before the trial was due to start the transcript of the little boy’s 2nd police interview arrived, along with the DVD recordings of the interviews. Another late night watching video nasties for my husband.

The CPS has guidelines for getting good quality evidence from interviews with children. Right at the start of the interview the supposedly specially trained police officer deviated from the established protocol. He denied the little boy the opportunity to give a “free narrative account” of what had happened. Instead he sought to confirm what his mother’s husband had said.

His day in court

The trial began. Three days into the case the little boy gave evidence via video link. As is customary, all the barristers and the judge removed their wigs and gowns. Next it was my husband’s turn to cross examine the little boy. This is a horrible job, one that preys on the lawyer’s mind for weeks before and after the event itself. It is very difficult to find a balance between protecting the interests of the client and being sympathetic to a small child in an alien situation.

During cross examination the little boy kept referring to his step father as “daddy”, then quickly correcting himself and using the step father’s first name. It became clear that there were two “daddies” in the little boy’s life. Both Exhibit C AND his stepfather were “daddy”. The little boy said that he really missed his daddy (that is, Exhibit C). They hadn’t been able to see each other for over a year. Despite all of the horrible things that his father had been accused of doing to him, this was the only time that the little boy cried.

The step father was next to give evidence. His behaviour was distinctly odd, overly dramatic and emotional. His own evidence in chief destroyed his credibility before cross examination started. Remember that he was not in court to hear the little boy’s evidence, so he had no idea that what he was saying appeared to be complete rubbish.

Court broke up for lunchtime. My husband marched out of the building saying to himself “he did it. That b$*&ard bloody well did it”.

After lunch my husband cross examined the step father. He was evasive. He contradicted what the little boy had said. He showed himself to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The Perry Mason moment

You can probably guess what is coming now, it is this blog’s first screenplay:

Barrister: (standard court voice) You’re “daddy”, aren’t you?

Stepfather:  (defiant) No I’m not. I never have been.

Barrister:  He calls you daddy all the time.

Stepfather: (defiant) No. He doesn’t.

Barrister: You’ve coached him not to call you daddy for this court case.

Stepfather: (uncertain) No, I haven’t.

Barrister: when the mums came to the house and told you and your wife what the little boy said “daddy” did you had to come up with a story, didn’t you?

Stepfather: (quietly) no, I didn’t.

Barrister: you decided to save yourself by framing Exhibit C

Stepfather: no, I didn’t (begins to cry)

Barrister: (raised court voice) yes you did, and you got the little boy to say it

Stepfather: (sobbing whispers) no, no, no

This was my husband’s one and only Perry Mason moment. The only time he has ever been able to point the finger at a witness in a case in court. Never before, never since. After my husband’s closing speech the police officer in charge admitted that it was pretty obvious now that everything had come out in the wash.

Exhibit C was found not guilty of all charges. As the court emptied the police and social services were already rallying their troops to arrest the stepfather and protect the little boy and his siblings from further harm.

Exhibit C had thought that he wouldn’t be able to see his children again, even after being acquitted. He was wrong, this story has a happy ending. The children are now living with him and recovering well. Even though my husband was reluctant to take this case in the beginning, by the time it was over he was very glad he had.

Why this story should matter to you

  1. Innocent until proven guilty – as we saw in Myth #2, not all defendants are scumbag criminals. Everyone deserves the right to a fair trial. The MOJ wants to deprive you of this right.
  2. Targets – if this case had happened under the MOJ proposals, Exhibit C’s inexperienced, target driven lawyer would have encouraged him to plead guilty.
  3. Child protection – if Exhibit C had gone straight to jail the little boy and his siblings would have been left in the clutches of an abuser, without the protection of their loving father.
  4. Finger pointing – even if you think you have no enemies you are still vulnerable. The MOJ proposals will be a finger pointer’s charter. It will be like going back to the Witch Trials. You’ll either be pressured into pleading guilty or, if you have got the money to pay for your defence, you will not get all your costs back even if you are innocent. You might clear your name only to face financial ruin.

Help save our justice system

As things stand the proposed changes to the criminal justice system are going to be brought in under secondary legislation, without any debate.

The Save UK Justice e-petition needs 100 000 people to sign it in order for there to be a debate in parliament. If you have not already signed the petition please do. If you have already signed it please talk to your friends and family and ask them to do the same.

Our final scumbag criminal will be Exhibit D – the “fraudster”

66 comments

  1. Jason · · Reply

    God your good!! Well done on another cracking example of how Justice prevails under our current, well founded system. Thank you.

    1. Many thanks Jason!

  2. Everyone should read this.

    1. Thanks for your comment Tim. Whether they read this or not everyone should sign the petition! Please keep talking to your non-legal chums about it.

  3. Great blog post. It appears absolutely ridiculous how this government in its desperate venture to “cut public spending”, has no respect for the fundamental human rights which make us a civilised society in the western world.

  4. Simon Longley · · Reply

    Thanks, I have now been convinced to sign the petition

    1. I’m thrilled to hear that Simon. I hope you will be able to spread the word amongst your chums and get a few more people to sign the petition.

  5. Kirsty Ridyard · · Reply

    Absolutely fantastic post, thank you so much for sharing it.

    1. Many thanks Kirsty.

  6. Having been directed to your blog via David Allen Green, I have to say I’m glad I found it. Some brilliant stuff, and I’ve just spent the past hour reading everything you have written on these matters.

    Coming from a “legal” household myself but not being a lawyer, I have some experience and understanding (at least in part) of how the law is supposed to work. The MoJ changes will fundamentally change for the worse how people accused of crimes will be represented in the future, and this shouldn’t be allowed to happen

    Thank you for sharing, and I I have shared this blog on facebook in the hope that more people are made aware of this

    1. Thanks for your comment Neil. I’m pleased that I was able to entertain you for an hour. Please keep telling your non-legal chums about what is going on.

  7. Amazing story, and a very unusual example of false accusation. But how fortunate the defendant had a barrister like this.

    1. Thanks for your comment Robert. He’s certainly fortunate that he was able to get legal aid under the current system!

  8. Paul Hanratty · · Reply

    I’m a criminal lawyer & whilst I am anxious for my future I’m as concerned for the future of our criminal justice system. This happens more often than people think.

    1. Thanks for your comment Paul. I’m sure you have plenty shocking stories of your own!

    2. Robert · · Reply

      Please help me. I have been charged with an historic sexual offense and yes, I am innocent. I do not know if the lawyer that was given to me at the police station is the right lawyer for me and I am in distress right now.

      Is there a way to contact me with any suggestions or help ?

      1. Sorry for delayed response, I’ve been in hospital. Sorry to hear of your distress as well. Do you still need help? If so I’ll ask my husband what he suggests.

  9. Maggie · · Reply

    Well im pretty sure it would have become evident as the case proceeded that the boy wasn’t talking about Exhibit C. Otherwise God help us! Surprised it took so long!

    1. Thanks for your comment Maggie. You’re right, it should have been evident from day 1. But if things were always evident from the beginning we wouldn’t need lawyers, courts, trials, judges. The police could just arrest people and take them straight to jail! Plus there was a lot more detail to the case than I have written. I couldn’t say too much more as it might have identified the little boy. As another commentator has said, this happens more often than the people think. Check out the post about Exhibit B – the “murderer”

  10. Germaine · · Reply

    Pretty sure many of the ‘benefit fraudsters’ who plead guilty to Housing
    Benefit fraud are in this position…..you cannot even obtain records from the DWP, Council or JobCentres under a DPA request, and risk going to jail if your risk a not guilty plea…….

    1. Thanks for your comments Germaine.

  11. […] *you* or *yours* could end up with a criminal record because of Grayling's witless [A Barrister's Wife via […]

  12. leisha bond · · Reply

    As a family law barrister married to a criminal law barrister I 100% agree with all you say and commend you on how beautifully it is written. The Gov seems intent on destroying legal aid and thereby justice. Under the Stobart system the Gov seems so keen on Dad in this case would almost certainly have been “trucked”……… I have tweeted link @Leisha007

    1. Many thanks for your comments Leisha, and for the publicity. I imagine that you and your husband have some very interesting conversations!

  13. […] first one I saw was Exhibit C – the “paedophile”. This is a case her husband worked on where a young boy had claimed that his daddy had been abusing […]

  14. probation officer · · Reply

    great blog, well done

  15. Imelda Finnerty · · Reply

    It seems that the father was not questioned at an earlier stage which seems almost unbelievable. Also strange that trained legal ppl did not know about the necessity of identifying who the child was referring to as ‘daddy’. This happens all the time when Mums relate stories to me about complicated family situations. From time to time I interject with ‘Do you mean Chris/Fred /John?’ or the Mum corrects herself saying ‘He meant his real Dad’ or something similar. Can’t legal people set out a list of the key people involved for themselves and check everything that is said so that it is always possible from the earliest stages of talking with the child to establish to whom the child is referring.
    I hope pressure can be brought on the CPS to bring forward any evidence/statements they have at the earliest opportunity to defence Counsel.

    This was very interesting to read, thank you.

    1. Thanks for your comments Imelda. You are right, it is almost unbelievable!

  16. James · · Reply

    Brilliant blog post. I couldn’t be more convinced to sign the e-petition.

    1. Thanks for your comment James, and for signing the petition. Please ask your chums to consider doing the same.

  17. @Imelda – Interesting, though, that the mother was prepared to go along with it, even though she must have known the boy called his stepfather ‘daddy’ – don’t you think?

    1. Thanks for your comment Wayne. There was a lot of detail about that mother that I had to leave out because it might have been identifying. Suffice to say she was also a victim.

  18. As a victim of the Secret Family Court for 7 years – falsely accused of having Parental Alienation Syndrome (which was invented by an American paedophile called Richard Gardner) I wasn’t going to read this blog post, as I feel so very very angry about the vile way I was treated by stitch up artists in the Secret Family Courts, including one female Barrister who was SUPPOSED to be my defence, but who tried to force me to sign documents against my will at Stafford Court, even though I was pleading and crying to them to let me go for two hours. They ganged up on me because I am one of the Staffordshire Pindown child abuse victims, and they want to cover it all up. When Ken Clark announced the Legal Aid cuts I was so happy that the Secret Family Court FMSF gravy train might be dried up. But I am so glad I read this, its made me see the other side of the story. So glad your husband had his “perry Mason” moment, obviously there are some men and women of integrity left in the Justice system, my own dreadful experience has left me so heart sore it almost blinded me to that.

    1. Thanks for your comments Zoompad. I’m sorry you have had such a hard time. I’m glad that you were able to read this and take something positive from it.

  19. Nick Cockeell · · Reply

    Another excellent article. A point that should also be made is that if Exhibit C had grafted in his life and was fortunate to have a “disposable income” of £37,500, he would be refused legal aid. His contested trial could have cost him far in excess of £20,000. Possibly far more than this. Under the new proposals, he would be likely only to receive a maximum of a quarter of this back. (Based on legal aid rates being approximately 1/4 of standard private rates – often far less). In addition to this, imagine a situation where he was legally aided under the new system by a solicitor who had been lucky (?) enough to win a contract. Unfortunately the solicitor allocated to him by the government bid the lowest of all bidders in the area so have no interest in looking after him. Incidentally, he might have been lucky enough to have been allocated a solicitor who bid higher so will get paid more for his case. Although they will of course be guaranteed to get paid more even if they do less work. If he was so disgusted with his allocated solicitor, he wouldn’t be allowed to change. But… he does have a “choice” because his mother cashes in her life savings to pay privately for a trusted solicitor and an excellent specialist barrister. When he is acquitted after their fantastic work, he is NOT entitled to ANY reimbursement of costs as he has “chosen” to pay privately.
    An absolutely terrifying prospect under the “consultation” and one that will affect a large number of people. People who have worked hard all their lives, honestly paying their taxes into a system that will fund their arrest, investigation and prosecution – but leave them to pay for their defence, without reimbursement if convicted. Appalling.

    1. Nick Cockeell · · Reply

      * acquitted – sorry!

    2. Many thanks for your comments Nick, and for filling in the detail about proposed changes to income threshold for legal aid.

  20. Louise Hill · · Reply

    I am a professional rejuvenating woman. I chair education appeals, organise custody visits and dispense local justice. Last year a sikh accused me of racially aggravated common assault. His witness corroborated this even though he was not present. I was arrested and prosecuted. I attended mags 3 times culminating in 4th appearance for a 3 day Crown Court trial. In court the sikh and witness admitted lying and the jury unanimously found me not guilty. I paid my £2.5k defence costs. I am that ‘daddy’ mentioned above. We all need to get behind this petition.

    1. Thanks for your comment Louise. I’m pleased to hear that justice prevailed for you.

  21. Woozlehound · · Reply

    Cripes – finds petition & signs immediately. Please keep blogging – your knowledge shows great insight.

    1. Thanks for your comment and for signing the petition Woozlehound. Please talk to you chums and ask them to consider doing the same.

  22. wow – i can’t actually believe this. I actually just thanked God for suing your husband to spare exhibit C’s life. we live in such a society that he would of been easily found wrongly guilty, if not for vigilant work of people like your husband.

    1. Thanks for your comments blackgirloncampus.

  23. Reblogged this on SyesWorldView and commented:
    Extremely well written and highlights the issues of the change in rules by the DoJ. This is a huge step for due process and democracy. Would advise people to sign the petition at the bottom of the article if you value your freedom.

    1. Thanks for your comments and for sharing the blog lurpack1.

  24. Reblogged this on David Hencke and commented:
    I have put this excellent blog up to show how important it is to have really good lawyers dealing with child sexual abuse cases – and how plans by the man I dub the ” political mugger ” Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, wants to put this at risk by putting out future legal aided work to the cheapest firms. His package includes encouraging the accused to plead guilty which would have been a disaster in this case. He also wants to put out of business thousands of competent lawyers from taking up cases by excluding them from tendering for work..And incidently if you haven’t got the cash depriving you of your right to have a lawyer of your choice in criminal cases.. I wonder if Grayling would care if the wrong person had ended up in this case in jail – as long as he had saved money.

    1. Thanks for comments and for sharing the blog David.

  25. […] Reblogged from a barrister's wife: […]

  26. Omg it gets worse. MPs want pay rise so public don’t get monkeys!! But “criminals” as apparently everyone accused of crime is and victims deserve monkeys????

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2326816/MPs-10k-pay-rise-But-say-Its-snouts-trough–pay-peanuts-monkeys.html

    1. I do try to avoid reading the Daily Mail so thanks for flagging this up Leisha!

  27. @Leisha007: Mouth drops to floor. It gets worse.
    Pay rise ( yes that is not cut or even freeze but RISE) for MPs to ensure quality but “criminals” as apparently all those accused of crime are.
    and victims, deserve monkeys? http://t.co/7TzBLL5HUc

  28. Reblogged this on theneedleblog.

  29. Representation should be available to all, regardless of wealth and this does seem like a step back into the dark ages, which is why I have signed the petition. By the way, I am a serving police officer and tardy investigations, like that described, do us a great disservice.

    1. Thanks for your comment Mick. Sometimes things do go wrong, whatever part of the system you work in. Justice is not an easy job!

  30. […] May: EXHIBIT C – THE “PAEDOPHILE” (A barrister’s […]

  31. […] advice is much, much worse; someone who gets the wrong legal advice can end up being named as a paedophile, or burdened with a conviction that will never become spent, or behind bars for murder, without […]

  32. […] better is this article. The police in my childhood were all knowing and could do no wrong. Even as I grew up they had the […]

  33. […] changes to Legal Aid could really mess things up – the final inspiration for my post, read here. (Others along the same lines can be found (D) here, (B) here and (A) […]

  34. bitteraboutit · · Reply

    yes, this is right, this is what legal aid is for. unfortunately i was on the other end of a spurious will related case where the other side was funded by legal aid. there are limits on the amount of money you can have to claim aid, and we provided evidence that the other side had money in the bank that they did not declare.(he declared he had nothing, in fact he had well over the limit). at this point the legal aid side i’m assuming just withdrew funding, not prosecuted for fraud. this case which ruined a good 18 months of my life (it was strung on as long as possible) when eventually i had to pay the f*cker off (he got 15k, i had 40k in legal fees on top) because court isn’t worth the risk (when i was unable to claim anything back because he had nothing), when he is free to walk the streets after fraudulently getting money off legal aid… the whole thing needs a revision.

    1. Thanks for your comment bitteraboutit. I’m sorry to hear you had a bad experience. You might be comforted to hear that civil legal aid has been slashed, I don’t know if it would even be available for will disputes now. Anyone?

  35. […] Exhibit C: The Paedophile – A Barrister’s Wife […]

  36. kaztgray · · Reply

    Reblogged this on victims fight back and commented:
    Highlights how fkd up the Ministry of Justice really is.

  37. Tide Swell · · Reply

    Excellent post. Fantastic reading – there’s a book waiting to be written somewhere!!

  38. Lynn Davison · · Reply

    My husband was a juror on a child abuse case. The child was a teenage girl of low intelligence and the mother was an evil vindictive flaky bag of rubbish. The defendant apparently had the ‘look’ of a paedophile all the way through the trial until the not guilty verdict whereupon his whole look and demeanour changed. He was later reunited with the child who was delighted to run into his arms. The mother had made up the whole thing. A bit like your fraudster story.

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