Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Comic Copera

Summoned for jury service to the Central Criminal Court in the Four Courts yesterday. This is the court where most of the country's serious crimes are tried so along I went anticipating some kind of Henry Fonda role, bringing balance and reason to an imperfect system.

My fellow jurors were mostly middle-class, middle-aged men and women. For some reason I got the feeling that the Civil Service was well represented. There was a singular absence of fat cats and Foxrock fannies. Civic responsibility is, I suppose, for the little people.

Bang on the designated time the Clerk of the Court addressed us on the logistics of our duties and took a roll call. Then we were set free for an hour.

On our return all had changed. The court was full of bewigged barristers conferring in small animated bunches, and there were two benches full of handcuffed defendants and their Gardai escorts. Everyone was jammed into close promimity. It was all very relaxed. Even the handcuffed defendants seemed comfortable and complicit in their roles.

Mr. Justice Paul Carney was presiding and his female tipstaff called on us all to rise as he made his majestic progress to his podium. He is straight out of central casting - jowly, irascible, wig slightly askew.

The deal was to go through the list of cases and swear in a jury where the trial was to go ahead that week. One by one the prosecution and defence for the different cases agreed postponements. It was all done in a very clubby agreeable fashion - no arguments from anyone. The only time Carney demurred was when a case was put back to the 5th December he suggested that because it would be a long trial ("more than 3 weeks"), they should postpone until the new year.

In the end it transpired that no cases were to go ahead. So Justice Carney thanked us for our trouble and said we were off the hook for two years.

What an anti-climax. A small glimpse into an arcane world.