Justice demands that everyone deserves a good defence

SDC+Drax+Trail+Still-113

Justice demands that everyone deserves a good defence

Justice demands that everyone deserves a good defence

Hear from one of the defence team from the recent Richard Drax MP mock trial

 

Justice demands that everyone deserves a good defence. I do mean everyone. Unfortunately, poor old millionaire and land baron, Mr. Richard Drax MP, could probably have afforded much better representation than me and the rest of the defence team (two university law students and a sixth form student) but Mr. Drax ignored his invite to the mock trial. So we did our best. Really we did. Each one of us are aspiring barristers and we weren’t about to take the charges lying down. We argued free speech, we painstakingly illustrated the impossibility of unraveling all the dark and dirty slave trade money that has infiltrated every corner of our nation. We moved to throw out the case on a number of grounds. We were also keen to point out the fiction of the charges and the problem with judging morality. We did not mess around.
It was my belief, that although our man takes positions that are never going to be popular among the young generation, and was probably going down, perhaps the jurors (pupils from local schools) would be deathly bored with an eight hour trial and acquit him out of desperation. I assumed that I would have the opportunity to strut around pretending I was in a US court drama while apathetic youths drifted off. 
Instead, the pupils stole the show. We were faced with challenges beyond our dodgy client. The overriding problem was that the jurors – the pupils at local Dorset schools – were smart. They’re informed, they care about each other and the planet. They are also connected. Ancient, bumbling Conservative representatives have got quite riled up about the mock trial because they think that their schools are brainwashing them. (How otherwise could young students possibly know about the Black Lives Matter movement? Why aren’t they aggrieved by the effort of using different pronouns for people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth?) The answer is not the Daily Mail’s submission that rabid communist teachers somehow have the time and energy to radicalise their pupils between administering covid tests, teaching the vast curriculum and paying for classroom resources themselves. Today’s pupils have close friends that they have never met in person. Their worlds are no longer homogenous because they are connected to people outside of their gender, their race or their sexuality and they are ready to defend the rights of their global communities. Technology has allowed our bright and thoughtful young people to see beyond their own front doors and we had all better get used to it.
Outward looking as our jurors were, from the perspective of the defence they were also unhelpfully familiar with local matters. They spoke of the increasing deprivation they were observing and experiencing: siblings who had to drive to primary schools, after the one they attended closed due to lack of funding; hospitals closing; local people being forced to leave for lack of affordable housing. It was looking very bad for us. 
As much as we might have been tempted to throw in the towel and go home, I made our closing statement. I did my best to blind the jury with rhetoric about the ballot box, imperfect morality, the sins of all our ancestors and free speech. Unfortunately, the jurors understood the assignment. They were well aware that our defendant was not really being tried for any real crime and that instead they were being asked to consider whether my client’s morals were in line with that of young people today. They were not swayed by the argument that this was an unfair persecution of a defenceless OAP. They knew that whatever the verdict, Mr Drax would still be in power, living in his mansion on a 7000 acre estate. Despite our best efforts, they could not be distracted.
Nevertheless, the jurors deliberated for all of their allotted time. The apprentice film crew reported that they went over the charges with a fine-tooth comb and agonised over the task they had been set. They listened to one another and they spoke with respect. In short, they wanted, above all, to be fair.
There were three juries in total and one delivered a guilty verdict on both counts. Another jury found my client guilty on the charge of benefitting from the proceeds of slavery but was hung on the charge of demonstrating discriminatory behaviour towards the descendants of enslaved people and other marginalised groups. The final jury found for the prosecution on the second count, and was undecided on the first. Given what Mr Drax gave us to work with, as defence counsel, we considered it a win! I suspect our client would not.
In the mock world we created at Bridport Town Hall on the 14th September, we filed an immediate motion to appeal. The jury were all underage and it is only right and proper that the trial be heard in front of the adult population. We’re rather hoping the trial will be held in Poole, or East Dorset where the median age of the population is 68.
In the real world, I have a piece of advice for our government (although given my aspirations, I am sure Priti Patel is not interested in it): the young people of today are poised to begin exacting their own influence on the course of the nation’s history. They will not appreciate your assertions that they are mindless youths capable of being brainwashed. They are autonomous, informed and wildly capable and they are coming to a ballot box near you