Passing Judgement

In the last couple of weeks I had the privilege of performing jury service. I say privilege not just because it is a civic duty but because I found it humbling to be afforded the opportunity to influence the outcome of a criminal trial. Having spent 31 years as a police officer, providing evidence in all types of courts from magistrate to upper tier crown court and coroner’s court. All my experience of course had been one sided, in support of a prosecution.

My first ever experience of giving evidence was in a driving without due care case at Eastleigh magistrates court. A car had lost control causing a collision in what I thought was a pretty straight forward case. Therefore when I was questioned about the car Aquaplaning immediately prior to the collision I was frankly flummoxed. The road was wet but I had not been careful enough in my examination of the scene, nor adequately described the road conditions. At the time it all seemed pretty straightforward to me, the driver had lost control by not taking proper care. The aquaplaning evidence (which I could not challenge) introduced an element of doubt and the case was dismissed; I had not proved the case, leaving out vital information.

Manchester Crown Court

Having been selected to sit on a Jury for a trial I sat through 2 days of prosecution evidence. The Judge had warned us not to use social media, read the press or discuss the case. He made the point that even informal chat amongst 4 or 5 jurors would be detrimental as all 12 were not involved and assumptions could be drawn too early. As it was after 2 days the Judge dismissed the case but the whole thing about independence is a minefield and there are some recent examples of where a juror fell foul of their own curiosity. Lionel Tweed, put himself forward to be foreman of a murder trial jury at Manchester Crown Court but ignored strict rules which prevent jurors from making internet searches. Tweed had pleaded guilty to 2 charges involving research by a juror and sharing that research with other jurors and was jailed for 4 months.

In my musings waiting to be called back into court it occurred to me that our army of Citizens Advice advisers help people to make decisions every day. Many of these decisions can be life changing. Many of our clients turn to Citizens Advice in their hour of need and look for help to make the right decision, or overcome issues such as debt, housing and employment.

We take pride in the quality of the advice we provide, providing intensive training and supervision to support advisers. Not only that, Citizens Advice have a quality checking process that is again, rigorous and structured. The quality of advice assessment (QAA) can be see by some as tiresome but yet, this is what sets us apart. As the Tips above show, we can use this process to our advantage. Not that we sit in judgement of clients but we have a responsibility, much like a juror, to offer impartial, unbiased and informed help. But, Citizens Advice advisers examine all available evidence and information, examine legal implications, explore the implications of any course of action and guide their clients every step of the way. That is why we really are a Trusted Brand.

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