Criminal law and the Rugby World Cup

By Anna Sandiford 11/09/2011

I was at court last Wednesday to check on the progress of a trial regarding an alleged rape.  The evidence and those giving it was interesting, and that was why I was there (that’s another story altogether).

What was more interesting was the fact that the judge and the barristers were working out how long the trial was going to take.  This is not unusual; assessing progress of a case and when various parties are going to be giving evidence is a vital part of the trial process.  The interesting part was that the trial had taken slightly longer than had been anticipated.  The issue was how to get the matter finished so that the jury could be released in good time on Friday so they could get home if they wanted or get down the road to the waterfront for the start of the Rugby World Cup festivities.  The ideal would be to have the trial completed and a verdict back by Friday afternoon.  There were more men than women on the jury and without being sexist it was a fair bet that many on the jury were keen to get the trial over and done so that they could enjoy the weekend ahead.  The last thing the court wanted was a jury distracted with sport.

This is an aspect of the Rugby World Cup that I hadn’t previously considered but seeing as I didn’t go into town after Wednesday, I don’t know what the outcome was.  My thought was whether or not the jury being distracted by the World Cup enough to hurry a verdict would be sufficient grounds for appeal if the verdict didn’t go the Defendant’s way…

Another aspect of the World Cup was an emergency call I received on Friday morning.  A barrister had had a hearing that morning and he needed some information for the Court for 10am Monday morning.  I duly said I’d drop everything else and concentrate on the issue because it was court-ordered.  At about 4pm that afternoon I had a brilliant plan, so I tried to convey this to the barrister.  Bizarrely, I couldn’t get hold of any of the legal team.  After a wee while watching the World Cup opening ceremony, the penny dropped that the legal team had probably left early to either get down to the waterfront or had gone home.  This explained the somewhat cryptic comment from one of the lawyers that it was OK if I wanted to leave my response to Monday morning rather than working the weekend.  I couldn’t work out why I would want to leave it until Monday morning but then I realised it was because I was probably the only one who would be working over the weekend!

The Rugby World Cup is having a huge impact on this country, in more ways that we can possibly all realise….