‘Oft have I heard that grief softens the mind,
And makes it fearful and degenerate;
Think therefore on revenge and cease to weep.’
2 Henry VI (4.4.1-3)
My heartfelt horror of being the bubble boy twice while playing online poker got a little soothing yesterday when I won a SnG tournament and got my stake back from the too tournaments that I lost out in. Yes it was small potato but when you get crushed through bad play and bad luck it is nice to gain revenge on both those imposters no matter how it came.
It was like the old Liverpool football team of the late 80’s who used to murder the next team they played if they lost their previous team. Which brings me to the subject of revenge. As the old Mafia saying goes ‘….revenge is a dish best eaten cold”. So when Chris Huhne a former M.P dumped his wife for a bisexual political assistant Carina Trimingham (why being bisexual to the newspaper editors was such an issue I will never know), his wife decided that she was going to destroy his career by admitting that she took the penalty points when her husband broke the speed limit.
Now on the scale of criminal activity a speeding points is very minor, but, perjury is not! Chris Huhne toughed it out for years and always looked quite convincing but after a while the political class began to shift it’s allegiance and the game always looked like it was up. When he finally admitted in court that he did lie it was not a big surprise and he now awaits sentencing. The amazing thing about this case was that Chris Huhne got his wife to accept the points because he would have lost his licence when he was running to be a M.P for Eastleigh. The fact that he was a very rich man and could afford a driver to help him in the campaign never seemed to enter his mind. The populace of Eastleigh would not have viewed it a a big thing if he lost his licence, but they would have taken a view that lying to the courts about speeding and then to his wife about extra-marital affairs shows a guy in a very flexible moral universe.
Having flexible morals is OK as long as people do not know what is going on and you have no hidden secrets which you share with others especially those who are very close to you. Chris Huhne broke this rule and now is going to prison if the judge is not persuaded that his social class should excuse him from prison.
Another interesting thing about the Chris Huhne case is that his ex-wife Vicky Price has stated that she is innocent and was coerced by her husband to accept the points. The prosecution are arguing that she was a willing partner. This has led to a somewhat mini-crisis in the jury system as the case has had to be abandoned because the jury have asked the judge some really strange question. here is the list and the judge’s response to them.
1. You have defined the defence of marital coercion at page 5 and also explained what does not fall within the definition by way of examples.
Please expand upon the definition (specifically “will was overborne”), provide examples of what may fall within the defence and does this defence require violence or physical threats?
:: Mr Justice Sweeney said: “The pressure applied by the husband if pressure there was might not involve violence or physical threats.
“The only thing which I can do to answer the rest of the question is to refer you back to the direction that I have already given…
“The words are relatively straightforward English words which the law does not permit me to go beyond further than I have by way of clear illustration in these directions.
“It follows therefore that I have directed you as far as I can in relation to ‘will was overborne’, it means that the person was so affected by pressure from the husband that she was impelled to commit the offence because she truly believed she had no real choice but to do as she did.”
2. In the scenario where the defendant may be guilty but there is not enough evidence provided by the prosecution at the material time when she signs the Notice of Intended Prosecution between May 3-7 2003, to feel sure beyond reasonable doubt, what should the verdict be = not guilty or unable/unsafe to provide a verdict?
3. If there is debatable evidence supporting the prosecution’s case, can inferences be drawn to arrive at a verdict? If so, inferences/speculation on the full evidence or only where you have directed us to do so (e.g. circumstantial evidence, lies, failure by Ms Pryce to mention facts to the police?)
:: Mr Justice Sweeney said: “The drawing of inferences is a permissible process, speculation is not.
“You must not speculate and you could not draw safe inferences from debatable evidence because you need to be sure that your inference, you reasonable common sense conclusion, is correct.
“In this case, the evidence on which the prosecution relies is largely undisputed.”
4. Can you define what is reasonable doubt?
:: “The standard of proof that the prosecution must achieve before you can convict is simply this, the prosecution must make you feel sure of guilt, that is the same as but no more than the proof of guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
“A reasonable doubt is a doubt which is reasonable.
“These are ordinary English words that the law doesn’t allow me to help you with beyond the written directions that I have already given.”
5. Can a juror come to a verdict based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it, either from the prosecution or defence?
:: “The answer to that question is firmly no,” said the judge.
“That is because it would be completely contrary to the directions I have given you for anyone to return a verdict except a true verdict according to the evidence.”
6. Can we infer anything from the fact that the defence did not bring witnesses from the time of the offence such as au pair or neighbours?
7. Does the defendant have an obligation to present a defence?
:: “There is no burden on the defence to prove her innocence, on the contrary there’s no burden on the defence to prove anything at all.
“But against the background of these directions in particular as to the burden of proof, it follows that the defendant does not have an obligation to present a defence.”
He added: “You must not as I have now emphasised many times, speculate about what other witnesses will have not been called might have said or draw any inferences from their absence.
“I have made that clear in response to similar questions that one or more of your number have asked in the past.
“The fact that there is no evidence about the Huhne-Pryce household in 2003 apart from that of Ms Pryce and what she did or did not say to her daughter about events at that time simply means that you have only that evidence on that subject.
“It is her evidence in fact that no-one other than Mr Huhne she says was present when she signed the form.”
8. Can we speculate about the events at the time Ms Pryce signed the form or what was in her mind at that time?
:: “The answer to that is an equally firm no,” Justice Sweeney said.
“There’s a difference between speculation which is not permitted and inferences.
“Inference is the drawing of common sense conclusions of which you are sure from facts of which you are also sure.
“You are entitled to draw inferences, that is part of your job and it is what juries up and down the land do every day.
“Speculation is guesswork but that’s not the same thing as inference at all.”
9. The jury is considering the facts provided but have continued to ask the questions raised by the police.
Given the case has come to court without answers to the police’s questions, please advise on which facts in the bundle the jury shall consider to determine a not guilty or guilty verdict.
:: The judge said: “You decide the case on the evidence.
“That means it is for you to review all of the evidence and decide which of it you consider to be important, truthful and reliable, and then decide what conclusions, common sense conclusions, you can safely draw by way of inference from that evidence.
“It is not part of my functions – because I am the judge of the law, not as you are the judges of the facts – to tell you which piece or pieces of evidence are important and which are not.
“That is a matter for you to decide.
“You have all the evidence from the witnesses who have been called, the admissions that are in your bundle and the other materials that are in your bundles.
“It is for you to evaluate it all and to strive to reach a proper verdict based upon it, the evidence in this case.”
10. Would religious conviction be a good enough reason for a wife feeling she had no choice ie she promised to obey her husband in wedding vows, and he had ordered her to do something and she felt she had to obey?
:: “This is not, with respect, a question about this case at all,” said the judge.
“Ms Pryce does not say that any such reasoning formed any part of her decision to do what she did and the answer to this question will therefore not help you in any way whatsoever to reach a true verdict in this case.
“I must direct you firmly to focus on the real issues in this case and thereby to reach a true verdict according to the evidence.”
This is extremely interesting as it strikes at the heart of the UK legal system. Which is put up against the Oscar Pistorius case in South Africa and there system which is not a jury system but a single judge, who will have to decide that whether or not Oscar Pistorius is guilty of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. I will come back to this matter on another time.