Saturday, February 13, 2010

This Is Old City Hall, Day 10

Below: a cautionary tale [the first of two] about representing yourself in criminal proceedings.

Before Justice B------'s court convened, he showed me an application for an order for disclosure, submitted to His Honour's court by a self-represented accused. The accused was requesting transcripts from two ex parte hearings:
(a) a hearing during which a justice of the peace issued a search warrant for the home of the accused, and

(b) a hearing during which an information was laid alleging that the accused had threatened someone with death.

Without giving anything away, it appears that some letters of a grave nature were suspected to have originated within the home targeted for search, and that evidence of the letters might be gleaned from the computer, printer and stationery of the accused.

To the credit of the accused, the application was cogent, more or less, and appeared to satisfy the statutory requirements for court applications. It was not, however, effective. Someone with even a little legal experience (and who has less than I do?) would conclude from looking at it that the writer didn't know enough to know how little she knew. Instead of demanding transcripts likely to reveal little, wouldn't obtaining the search warrant itself be more likely to bear fruit? I'm sure a lawyer could have expedited the process or at least pointed the accused in the right direction, and I wondered why some officer of the court, the crown or His Honour maybe, hadn't done so. I found out when court began.

There were three co-accused, all women ranging from 60 to probably 75. I say 75 because my grandmother is 75, and these ladies reminded me of my grandmother: sharp-tongued, suspicious of the world around them and mad as hell. This was far from their first court appearance, and if ever they had elicited any sympathy from the court, the old buzzards had exhausted it at this point. They cut off crown and judge with self-righteous tirades peppered with legalese that they picked up god knows where: "abuse of process" -- no mild accusation -- , "chapter one [sic] of the Charter", "timely disclosure", etc. They accused the crown of malicious prosecution, delay and obstruction. They accused the investigating officer of targeting them to indulge a personal vendetta. They claimed that the police used undue force in the execution of the search warrant. One went so far as to suggest that the charges against them were not so severe that the police were entitled to use force. The charges, let's recap, were criminal harassment and uttering threats.

His Honour is a more patient man than I. He let them rattle on and on, never interrupting while they buried themselves with comments like the one above. When the hurricane had blown itself out, His Honour urged the crown to move the prosecution along. The crown did not look thrilled to comply.

Let this be a lesson to you: no good can come of (i) trying to represent yourself in criminal proceedings, or (ii) teaching your grandmother computers.

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