Criminal Trial in England

The Author’s club, London, S.W. 1

Dear Rene,

While you were staying with us during the summer I remember you asked me a lot of questions about law in this country. I am afraid I was not able to help you much. We read in our newspapers about trials in the law courts, but few law-abiding citizens are experts on the subject.

You asked me to tell you how criminal trials in England differ from trials in Europe, and I couldn’t tell up much- except I remember that I said that in England a person accused of Criminal Trial in England crime must always be supposed innocent until he has been proved guilty. Newspapers mustn’t describe the accused as “the thief” or “the murderer”; he is “accused” or “the prisoner”.

Last month I served as a member of the jury at an important criminal trial, so I learned quite a lot. I thought you’d be interested and that’s why I am writing. I am giving you only some general impressions. The newspaper reports I’m sending separately give a fairly complete account of the trial.

The prisoner was accused of robbing a bank and of wounding the night watchman Criminal Trial in England who tried to stop him. He pleaded ‘Not guilty’, so the trial was a long one. We had to listen to some long speeches and a lot of evidence.

I’m over fifty and this was my first experience of serving as a juror. We’re liable for the jury service between 21 and 60, so you see I might have been called on many years ago. Of the twelve members of the jury, three were women. Two of the men were small shopkeepers, one was at motor mechanic, and another was a school teacher. I didn’t find out what Criminal Trial in England the others were, but you see we were a mixed lot.

We had three stories to listen to. First was the story told by the counsel for the prosecution, then the story told by the defending counsel, and lastly the story was told by the judge, a summing up of what was said by counsel and witnesses. By ‘counsel’ I mean the barrister or barrister employed on either side.

The prosecuting counsel began by telling the court what he intended to prove by evidence. Then he called witnesses. These persons can say what they know only in Criminal Trial in England answer to questions, so the examination of witnesses is very important. Every witness may be examined by the barrister who is defending the prisoner. This is the cross-examination. The judge can interfere if he thinks any of the questions are unfair. He always objects to what are called ‘leading questions’, questions that suggest answers instead of asking for information. (Perhaps you know the old example: ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’). Leading questions, however, are allowed in cross-examination.

The defending counsel then had its turn. He called new witnesses, including the man himself. These witnesses Criminal Trial in England were then cross-examined by the prosecuting counsel.

The law of evidence is very strict. Every witness must, before going into the witness box, swear an oath, with his hand in the Bible, ‘to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’. A witness may tell only what he himself knows to be true. ‘Hearsay’ evidence is not allowed. If, for example, Mr. X saw a man forcing a way into a building, he can describe what he saw, and this is evidence. If he tells his wife about it, a description of what happened, given by the wife Criminal Trial in England, is not evidence. She heard her husband’s story, but she herself didn’t see what happened.

When all the evidence had been given, and the examination of the witnesses was finished, counsel for both sides made further speeches. Counsel for the prosecution tried to show that, from the evidence they had heard, the jury could only find the prisoner guilty. Counsel for defense tried to show that the prisoner was nor guilty. Then the judge summed up.

There are quite a lot of people in England who think that twelve ordinary men and women are not capable of Criminal Trial in England understanding properly all the evidence given in criminal trials. I had doubts about myself until I served as juror last month. I didn’t feel so doubtful now. Our judges are expert in summing up the evidence. They take notes during the trial. The judge, in the case I’m writing about, called our attention to all the important points in the evidence, and in the speeches made by counsel for both sides. He favored neither prosecution nor defence. He told us what crime the accused would be guilty of, if the evidence supplied by the prosecution Criminal Trial in England was true.

The members of the jury have to decide only questions of fact. Questions of law are for the judge. So when the judge had finished his summing up, he said to us: ‘Will you please consider your verdict?’

We retired to a private room to do this. I was elected foreman (or chairman). You probably know that if the jury cannot agree they must be discharged and there is then a new trial with a fresh jury. A verdict has to be unanimous. In this case we were not long in reaching a decision. The evidence against the Criminal Trial in England accused man was so strong that we had no need to discuss it for long. English law requires that the guilt of an accused man must be proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. We had no doubt at all, so when we returned to the court and I was asked: ‘Do you find the prisoner Guilty or Not Guilty?’ I gave the answer ‘Guilty’.

Here’s another interesting point about the law of evidence. The police may know quite a lot about the previous life of the accused man. They may have records to show that he is a Criminal Trial in England habitual criminal, that he has often been accused of crime and proved guilty. But this information cannot be given in court until after the jury have brought in their verdict.

In this case the police records showed that the prisoner had served three terns of imprisonment foe robbery, one of them being for robbery with violence. If we had known this before we considered our verdict, and if the evidence against the man had been weak, we might have been inclined to declare him guilty, in spite if weak evidence against him.

The prisoner’s past record of crime, if Criminal Trial in England he has one, is given after the verdict so that the judge may know better what sentence to pass. If the accused has never been convicted of crime, the sentence is not likely to be severe, unless the crime is one of violence. First offenders are usually treated with sympathy. If, on the other hand, the accused man has a long record of convictions, the judge will pass a more severe sentence.

There’s one more point worth mentioning. The police officers who find and arrest an accused man may appear as witness at the trial. But they appear only Criminal Trial in England as witness. They have no share in the examination of the accused. There is a clear division between the forces of the law who keep order and the forces who conduct trials in the law-courts.

I’ve probably told you much that you already know, and perhaps English law is not different from French law as I think it is. But I hope you’ll find this letter interesting. You were here in summer, when the law-courts were closed. Can you make your next visit when you’ll have a chance to attend a criminal Criminal Trial in England trial? We’d be very pleased to see you again.

Best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

John Churchman.

Task 10. Translate into Kazakh (Russian) the following words and expressions:

To rob a bank; to wound; liable for; evidence; cross-examination; witness; sentence; to convict; foreman; prosecution; prisoner; guilty; defence;

Task 11. Find English equivalents in the text:

Выступать в качестве присяжного; полный отчет; обвинять в…; подводить итоги; произносить клятву; признавать виновным; избирать; рецидивист; человек, преступивший закон в первый раз.

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