Silent witness


Silent witness

Yesterday I went to court to appear as a witness to an assault that happened last May. I’d never been before, but was nervously anticipating my time in the dock, because I wanted to do my part in helping to convict the guy.

Arriving about fifteen minutes early at 09:30, I was told by the lady at reception to go up and sit in “waiting room D.” Making my way up the stairs and along the corridors it occurred to me that there were a whole lot of waiting rooms.

I entered room D to see a middle aged man and a police officer sitting on opposite sides . I bid them good morning, but got the impression that chat wasn’t high on the agenda, so I took a seat on the same wall as the door and we sat there in silence as the room filled up with new arrivals.

Soon enough there were eight civilians and about ten police officers in the room. I guess this is why you see so few cops on the street – they’re all in witness rooms A through F at the local court house waiting on due process. Seemed an awful waste of resources to me, but I don’t really know enough about the justice system to poke holes in it.

Some women I recognised as being from Helensburgh arrived, with Crazy Uncle John following them in the door. He had also been a witness on the night, but I wasn’t sure he’d been called as he hadn’t said anything to me about it. I was busy messaging a work colleague on my phone via Skype, so I didn’t say anything at the time, but when he spotted me ten minutes later he came over and sat with me.

We talked about this & that to while away the time, as the room became increasingly warm and noisy. The clerk would come in sporadically and update us on what was happening, although she was hard to hear with the police officers talking loudly amongst themselves – familiarity must breed contempt of court.

The clerk explained that there were seven trials taking place on the day and she’d let us know if ours was going ahead. It had a good chance of doing so, she told us, because all the witnesses had turned up. All we could do was wait and we’d be called when the time came.

A man in a similar role appeared twice to tell the interested parties that two different case had been adjourned until June. Such a long way off from now, but then here we were being asked to give our personal accounts of something that had happened some nine months before. I sat there thinking I should have written down everything I saw and heard when I got home on the night it happened.

That became a moot point just after the two hour mark, when the female clerk came back and told us that the accused had plead guilty to the more serious of the two charges against him in a plea bargain. The women who had arrived at the same time as Crazy Uncle John let out a collective “yes!” between them.

Myself, I was happy enough that the system had worked, but disappointed at both the waste of a morning and that I didn’t get to experience standing as a witness after all.

Still, I was glad I’d played my part. When others might have assumed that the woman lying in the doorway of a bar was merely a drunk, I had paused long enough to appraise the situation and made my mind up that drunk people don’t suddenly fall unconscious with their legs buckled underneath them. When her friends had tried to pick her up, yet only managed to crack her head off of the concrete pavement, I decided I couldn’t leave her to her fate and called the emergency services on my phone.

Everything kind of kicked off at that point, as her assailant was still on the scene and was then attacked by two other men who confronted him over the assault. That he chose to escape by running along the riverside and jumping in Crazy Uncle John’s taxi was quite the coincidence, as I was able to relay that information to the operator.

As we left the court, the lady who had been assaulted told me how grateful she was that I got involved. On the night, the police had finally caught up with Crazy Uncle John’s taxi about a mile away from Dumbarton Sheriff Court, so it was quite fitting that the story finally ended here.