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A tour of the court

Meet Dr Ann Priston at Blackfriars Crown Court. She is explaining the layout of the court room and the procedures during trial.
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Hello. Hello there. Dr Priston. Yes, Dr Ann Priston. I’m Natsumi, nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. Now I understand you’re interested in becoming a forensic scientist. Yes, I am. All right. Well, part of your work will involve giving evidence in a Crown Court like this, so you need to be familiar. So I’m going to take you inside and show you around a typical Crown Court. Thank you very much. All right? Come with me.
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So this is a typical layout of a courtroom. When you come in, you will wait outside. OK. An usher will call your name. You come in through this door, and you turn into the witness box. You walk into the witness box, like this. And you just put your notes down, and then just wait. And the usher will ask you if you want to affirm or if you want to swear, which holy book you want to swear on. You take your oath. You put your notes down, and then you’re ready to begin your evidence. You give your evidence. The prosecuting counsel will be asking you questions, and you give your evidence to the jury so they can understand what you’re saying.
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OK. And then when you’ve finished your evidence at the end, you can either leave, or you can sit at the back of the court and listen to the rest of the case. Up here, on the high bench, this is where the judge sits. I see. In the centre is where the judge sits. This is a circuit judge. He will be called ‘Your Honour’, and he will wear a scarlet sash. On either side of him will be– if he’s hearing an appeal from the lower court, magistrates from the lower court will sit with him to hear the appeal. In front of him is the clerk of the court, who is not necessarily a lawyer, but a trained officer.
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And next to him is the shorthand writer who’s making a note of everything that goes on, all the proceedings. This bench here, this is where the prosecuting counsel sits, and he is the one who prosecutes the case on behalf of the Crown. Behind him are the Crown prosecuting solicitors, or possibly barristers, working with him. Over here, you have the public gallery. So members of the public can come in and listen to the trials, and that’s one of the features of the English legal system. Then at the back here, you have the dock. This is where the prisoner is kept, in the dock.
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If he’s in custody, if he’s in prison for his trial, he will be brought up through that door there into the dock, which is locked. But if he’s on bail, he comes in the same door that we did and he goes into the dock this way. At the back here, these are spare seats, maybe for police officers or for you, if you’ve finished your evidence, and you want to stay in court. This side here, this is where the defence solicitor will sit - OK. - and this is where the defence barrister will sit. He is nearest the jury, and he is representing the case against the Crown, as it were. So he’s defending the prisoner. This is the jury box.
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This is where the 12 members of the jury sit, and they take an oath that they will try the defendant according to the evidence, and evidence is what comes out of the witness box and not showing off in court or shouting or screaming or anything that goes on in court. It has to be on the basis of the evidence, all right? So that’s basically a fairly small courtroom, this one, but a typical Crown Court. So any questions can I help you with? Yes. My first question is, do you bring the actual evidence with you? To court. All of the evidence. No, you don’t. The police will have the exhibits. I see.
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The exhibits you’ve worked on will go back to the police when you’ve finished, and they will bring them to court at the beginning of the trial, because you won’t be called until maybe halfway through the trial. So no, you don’t bring the exhibits with you. Oh, OK. And the second question is, can you go out of the witness box to show the evidence close to the jury? No, you don’t.
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If the counsel or the judge want the jury to examine an exhibit, then the usher will come and take the exhibit, if you’ve got it in the witness box or pick it up from the bench, if it’s on the bench, and take it to the jury, and hand it around to the jury. So you don’t leave the witness box. Do you need to explain about the evidence so that normal people can understand? Yes. You absolutely do. It’s no point in going off at a tangent or blinding them with science, because then they won’t follow you. It’s very important that the jury can understand, and so you have to speak very clearly and very slowly.
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Don’t talk down to them, because some of them may have physics degrees for all you know. But you must be able to explain things very clearly so that they will understand. Yes, that’s very important. Last question is, do you prepare what you say in script? Well, you have to– when you do your work, you make notes, which you can bring to court. But before you do, when you finish your case, you write a statement. It’s called a CJ Act, Criminal Justice Act statement, which is given to the police, served on the defence. Then, they see whether or not they want you to come and give evidence in person - I see.
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and then you have to work from that when you’re giving your evidence in-chief, which is what you start with, when the counsel is speaking to you or prosecuting. And when the defence counsel is cross-examining you, he’ll probably ask more probing questions. So you’ll then look at your notes, probably, to ask him. So yes, all that has to be done in advance. You have to be very well-prepared. I see, OK. Thank you.

Meet Dr Ann Priston who will give you a tour of a crown court and teach you more about court procedure.

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