Friday, 22 February 2013

Trial by Jury

Sweeney - sudden fame
Fantasy Bob has some sympathy for Mr Justice Sweeney who has shot to unwanted fame this week.

He seems to have had a hard time with the jury in the high profile Vicky Pryce trial - Ms Pryce is accused of perverting the course of justice by accepting her ex-husband's, Chris Huhne, speeding points on her licence.  The jury would seem to have a collective IQ little higher than the number of points at issue.  The jury asked him a series of questions about the case at which he threw down his wig in despair, concluded that they had no understanding of their role or the nature of the evidence and so dismissed them. A retrial has been ordered.

However through diligent research of the sort that only he can muster, Fantasy Bob has discovered that Mr Justice Sweeney has had some similar previous experiences. 

Was this batsman out LBW?
When he is not judging, Mr Sweeney is a keen cricket umpire and committed to coaching and teaching aspirant umpires in the laws of the game. However sometimes he struggles to convey the subtleties of the laws in layman's terms.  In a recent class he was subjected to a series of questions from trainee umpires which caused him some anguish.

FB has obtained a copy of the transcript of the Q&A session, and presents it without further comment.

Q. You have defined the defence of marital coercion and also explained what does not fall within the definition by way of examples. Please expand upon the definition, specifically can a batsman be out if he leaves his crease when his wife waves from the boundary to tell him to put his sun cream on.

A. The words are relatively straightforward English words which the MCC does not permit me to go beyond further than I have.  The batsman would have to feel he was impelled in relation to the sun cream and truly believed he had no real choice. The mere suggestion shouted from the boundary that she certainly didn't want to see his sun tanned bald head glowing in the dark that evening is unlikely to be sufficient.

Q. In the scenario where the batsman may be out but there is not enough evidence provided by the bowling side at the material time to feel sure beyond reasonable doubt, what should the verdict be: out, not out, or didn't see cause the sun was in my eyes?

A. There was no answer but the sharp intake of breath.

Q. If there is debatable evidence supporting the bowler's case for LBW, 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, eg circumstantial evidence, lies, failure by the batsman to mention facts to the police.

A. The answer was preceded by a long sigh. The police a rarely involved in cases of LBW.  The drawing of inferences is a permissible process, for example it is an inference that a batsman wielding a top of the range Gray Nicoll Scoop is a rich bugger, but it is speculation that he must be a quality batsman and so could not possibly have misjudged the line. Further you must not speculate as to whether the batsman intended to place his leg outside the line of off even when he did not or that the bowler intended to pitch in line and would have but for a sudden gust of wind.

Q.Can you define what is reasonable doubt?

A. I doubt it but I'll try to be reasonable so here goes - A reasonable doubt is a doubt which is reasonable. These are ordinary English words - what's your problem?

Q.Can an umpire come to a verdict based on a reason that was not presented on the field of play and has no facts or evidence to support it either from the bowler or fielders?

A. The answer to that question is firmly no. You cannot give a batsman out because something reminded you of the dismissal of Ian Botham at the Oval in 1991, nor can you say a batter is out bowled if the ball has just crossed the boundary for 4.

Q. Can we infer anything from the fact that the batsman did not bring witnesses from the time of the ball being bowled such as au pair, neighbours?

A Nor, before you ask, can you infer anything from the fact that his trousers appear to be too tight.

Q Does the batsman have an obligation to have a defensive shot?

A There is no burden on the batsman to prove he can bat. Nor is there an obligation to defend a straight ball - many batters try to wallop the cover off everything. it's not a pretty sight but it can be effective once in a while.

Q. Can we speculate about the events at the time that the batsman missed the ball, or what was in his mind at that time?

A In my experience batsmen rarely have anything in their mind.Q. Please advise on which facts in the bundle the jury shall consider to determine an out or not out verdict.

A. For pity's sake - you bunch of dumb twats 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.

Q. Would religious conviction be a good enough reason for a batsman snicking a ball behind?

A. I give up. I'm going back to judging. This is not, with respect, a question about cricket at all. No jury could ever come up with such a bunch of dumb questions. 

Footsteps are heard followed by the sound of a door opening and slamming.

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