3 month and the lack of evidence from Prosecution - Objection to any defence witnesses.
There were 2 court hearings in Cupar Sheriffs Court in March, where I was kept on remand for further investigations. My solicitor Joanna McDonald came for a very short meeting the 14.03.03. From then until 21.05.03 all I heard from my solicitor was a few letters promising to have a meeting soon. I prepared my defence under stress and pressure suffering a lot from harassment in the prison.
I had a meeting 29.05.03 with my solicitor, which took place in a room with 2 prison officers and others present. The Legal Aid Board would not allow a counsel to represent me in court, but this was appealed. She suggested we should get an opinion of Counsel, and that I could defend myself, which I refused to do. I have a right to be legally represented. By the next meeting 05.06.03 I had been granted legal aid for a JC. Full documentation from the prosecution to the facts of the cost and other evidence material was not received yet. The solicitor doubted that I would be allowed any witnesses, despite the fact that all the witnesses we already had agreed on were at this time ready to give their statements!
Advocate John McLaughlin (counsel) arrived for a meeting 12.06.03. He suggested some totally different witnesses and did not take time to recognise or ignored the fact that the witnesses were already decided. He wanted more time to prepare the case properly, and to get an expert opinion on the costs of damages. He would ask for an adjournment the 17.06.03 at the first intermediate diet. We still also needed evidence material from the prosecution. By now the solicitor had dropped the suggestion that I should defend myself, and she seemed to believe I would be allowed witnesses. I wanted the witnesses brought to trial. If anyone shall deny me these witnesses it should be the judge during the trial - it is not up to either the solicitor nor advocate to take that decision.
The Counsel seeks advice and withdraws from the case.
On the first intermediate diet the 17.06.03 in Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court the advocate asked for an adjournment because he wanted to consult with his Boss the Dean of Faculty. I had a very short briefing before the hearing. Joanna had got a letter from the PF she said. I realized later, that the head of Dean of Faculty was not this Boss, but basically the whole Scottish legal system from QCs to PFs, lawyers and judges. Currently I am unsure with whom the advocate consulted over this question, in what forum and how far this information has been shared, and why no written record of this meeting has been produced? I surely felt the confidentiality in my case were broken here. It looks like someone had donated pound 300 to pay for this opinion. It was not paid by legal aid, neither have I paid for it.
At this hearing the prosecution and the Judge brought up the Lord Advocate Reference indicating this decision has already established my guilt in this case. The PF already had begun to make a legal argument; referred to cases; necessity defence; and immediacy. He said, The trust of the points I dont regard as relevant defence under Scots Law. Defence in Law does not extend to the cost. It has a bearing on mitigation. Since when is it up to the PF to decide what is relevant? Anyway these are matters for the trial. At this hearing I was supposed to make a plea and the advocate was supposed to give information about the witnesses we wished to bring and the skeleton arguments for the defence, which he was not ready to do, so he asked for this adjournment. He did not mention an adjournment also was needed because the prosecution still not had sent sufficient evidence material. He informed the court who the 3 defence witnesses would be, but to my surprise only one of these he mentioned I had agreed to. All others of the main witnesses of my own choice were not mentioned but should have been. He had that day even not read my defence statement, he admitted, so how he could suggest any witnesses at all at this stage of the case is still a mystery to me. The case was then adjourned until 24.06.03.
On the 24.06.03 the Advocate withdrew himself and so did the solicitor. He had been advised and could not take on the case, despite having already interfered more that enough in the case. I was left without legal representation, and despite telling the court I needed an adjournment to find a new legal team, as I was unable to represent myself, the court went on with the proceeding and started to ask me questions relating to an extension of my time on remand, without giving me any chance of legal consultation first. My right to proper legal representation was totally ignored here. The case was then adjourned to the 22.07.03 and a new trial date was set to the 28.07.03.
The collusion before the first hearing exposed in letter from the PF
I got a copy of the letter my solicitor Joanna McDonald had received from the PF dated the 13.06.03; It showed that the PF was fully informed about the 6 witnesses the prosecution wanted even before the first intermediate hearing on 17.06.03. The PF in this letter refused all the witnesses and would not accept an adjournment, but hinted that if an adjournment was allowed by the judge then an extension of the 110 days remand would be accepted by me. I was never advised on this point by the advocate before he withdrew. The lack of evidence material from the PF, which was another reason for the proposed extension, I never got a chance to fully argue on the 24.06.03. Under that kind of circumstances the extension of the remand period might not have been granted at all in the High Court, but it was never debated in the High Court, because I had been tricked into accepted this in the false belief it was needed for the adjournment to find a new legal team at the hearing 24.06.03.
Never presume malice where rank incompetence will suffice!
I had a meeting 01.07.03 with the new solicitor Aamer Anwar. He got my statement and a pile of documents to go through. I went to High Court the 04.07.03 for the extension of the remand period, and 10.07.03 he was still lacking sufficient evidence material from the prosecution. He said Joanna had not sent much material either, as if she had not worked on the case much so far. He did not at this meeting tell me the legal aid was not transferred. (I wonder if he worked for free these first two meetings?)
First intermediate diet the 22.07.03, my solicitor did not show up but a duty solicitor approached me in the police cells. I insisted to have a solicitor of my own choice and a colleague of my solicitor arrived. Then we went into court. This solicitor - who I felt forced to accept only for the reason he came from the same office as the solicitor I had chosen - started by asking for an adjournment on the grounds that Anwar had not been informed about the diet on that day, and the legal aid had not been received. It was another interpreter that day. He forgot to interpret a long debate going on among the PF and the solicitor, so I missed the most of this hearing. I was handcuffed and not able to take any notes either, This happened at all the court proceedings in Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court and supporters were denied to take notes too from that day onward. This hearing was about an adjournment. I got a chance to draw the solicitors attention and asked him what if I did not consent to an adjournment? Through gritted teeth he hissed at me, Then the trial will start on the 28.07.03! I firmly insisted that he ask the judge and said, I have not much choice here, or any chance, it is like the choice between pest and cholera. Either I could agree to another month on remand under atrocious conditions or face an early trial with an obviously unprepared solicitor legal aid was not yet secured, in other words the case had not been touched or I would have to defend myself six days later. What kind of choice of instructions is that? The case was then adjourned to the 24.07.03 for my solicitor to be present himself. The 24.07.03 Anwar told me we should have as many witnesses as possible. He still lacked evidence material from the prosecution. In the Court Anwar mentioned problems with Counsel John McLaughlin, who had withdrawn himself. He asked for an adjournment on that basis. Court adjourned till intermediate diet 12.08.03. Trial start 25.08.03. He did not mention legal aid or that we still lacked evidence material from the prosecution at all.
Meeting with Anwar 06.08.03, he wanted only 3 witnesses to be brought, but accepted the 4th witness who was important for me. He told me he needed to request an opinion of a counsel before he presented the defence he wanted to use in court. No mention if legal aid covered this opinion. He said he needed another adjournment until the end of September. No discussion of any of the documents or statement of mine. I asked him for a copy of my statement and a report I needed for my preparations, which still prevent me from preparing my witness statement in court. Just before he hurried out of the door I asked if I was going to High Court for an extension on the 08.08.03? I never got any reply to that.
Legal representation of your own choice and providing an interpreter causes problems in the Scottish legal system; circumstances of my release.
At a hearing in High Court 08.08.03 I was released because the proceedings could not go through without an interpreter present. A QC met me uninvited and was merely representing the Crown more than me. He told me he was happy on my behalf that he had saved the trial from collapse!!! I had to in a casual, polite but firm way to mention to him, that if he had bothered asking me I would for sure have had a quite other understanding of this. I was released in court in the afternoon, but was forced to go back to the prison for the release papers to be written and to pack my stuff in the cell down after my official release. I also have quite a lot of questions to ask in relation to the indictment to the High Court I was served that morning and to the point that I was not legally represented by anyone at that hearing. I had certainly not chosen this person to represent me and feel that he did so under false pretences. Anyway I was free and happy to go to Coulport, where Trident Ploughshares had their Disarmament Camp, and tried to forget all my frustrations at least for one evening, celebrating freedom with my friends under the stars and spotting nuclear submarines at the beautiful loch among the Scottish mountains.
Freedom - but more lies and manipulation on the agenda.
I went for another trial in England the 11.08.03, which was adjourned again, and rushed back to Kirkcaldy the 12.08.03. Here Anwar arrived (not in the best mood) and went directly to talk with the PF. I was never told what this meeting was about. I think he supposed a small talk in the hall outside the courtroom in presence of others to be a consultation with me about witnesses. A new intermediate diet was set for the 09.09.03, and trial was now changed to the 22.09.03. After this hearing my solicitor complained that the PF had lied to him. I asked, Who? And he just said, We had an agreement, the PF changed his story in court when he saw the judge was friendly! I still wonder what that agreement was about.
PF claims the time limit for bringing witnesses had expired, made reservations on that point and wanted a debate to exclude the legal defence and witnesses now and in future cases.
I contacted all my witnesses again to ensure they could be present the second week after the trial should start 22.09.03 as my solicitor had asked me to do so, and confirmed this to Anwar by letter on 13.08.03. The 03.09.03 I had a meeting with Anwar, sent him a letter of same date confirming details regarding my witness statement and witnesses to be brought. At the intermediate diet 09.09.03 the court was told we wanted 4 witnesses and that we were prepared for the trial 22.09.03. The PF argued that the time limit for bringing in witnesses was run out - and made a reservation, but at the same time asked for a debate to discuss whether we could have our witnesses, because an appeal case . (The LAR is not an appeal case, but it was this opinion he referred to). I could not hear the rest he said. The sheriff started to talk before the interpreter had finished translating. The case was adjourned to the 15.09.03 for this debate. Just after this hearing outside the court building on the pavement Anwar started a consultation now saying I should only make a moral defence and bring no witnesses, despite having just told the court the defence wanted 4 witnesses!!! I asked him for a proper meeting, reluctant to discuss this matter on the spot in front of others. When I later phoned my solicitor for a meeting he told me the trial was now scheduled to last one week, not the 2 weeks originally set off. He had forgotten he had asked me to make sure the witnesses could be ready for the second week. I knew already at least one of the witnesses would not be able to arrive the first week. That also is a way of cutting off your witnesses.
I went for an appointment 11.09.03 at Anwars office but he did not show up. I had made a written instruction for the debate the 15.09.03 to give to him at the meeting, so I left the letter at his office. In that letter I stated that I wanted the legal matters brought during the trial and not at a debate at an intermediate hearing, and if the Sheriff insisted, it should be appealed. I ended the letter saying that if all this would be insisted on by the Judge and no appeal was possible, I would leave the court in contempt and publish why, because this could simply not be right. This was my final instructions in this case. Just as I was on my way out of the door the secretary called me back. Anwar was on the phone. He said he did not need to give the PF any other information at the hearing 15.09.03 than witnesses we wanted (which was already given the 09.09.03 so I did not understand why he had to do this again?) and that he was not obliged to give any information about the defence to the PF, if we did not wish to do so. He said he would not agree to a pre-trial debate.
Collusion openly supported by the Judge demanding meeting between defence solicitor and prosecution outside court.
That was OK for me and basically the same as I had stated in my letter to him .but at the hearing 15.09.03 he did not show up. His colleague Mr. Sinclair again arrived. He breached confidentiality by talking about my defence line in the public gallery in front of my supporters. In court the PF objected to the relevance of witnesses and of part of the defence, despite he had not any idea of what the line of defence was, only making his own presumptions. The PF mentioned that Anwar had not met him on Friday past, as he had been too busy. The judge then ordered this meeting to take place. A meeting for what? Arranged by the Judge! Can the case not be heard in public? I objected when the PF started a speech about the LAR, prejudicing the Sheriff before the trial. The Crown wanted the judge to dismiss the defence before the trial is set. Doing so at an intermediate hearing where no arguments will ever be transcripted for a later stated case for appeal, is a direct attempt to get away with cutting of any legal defence with precedent in all future similar cases. Without Anwar present the debate could not be that day. The case was adjourned till Friday the 19th Sept, and the Sheriff firmly stated there would be no further adjournment of this case, and the trial was still set to begin the next Monday 22.09.03. I had a meeting the 16.09.03 and was supposed to be briefed on all details about defence and the prosecution witnesses, his new defence line and documents etc. in less that one hour, which is impossible. He gave me a letter dated same day in which he had asked a DALE HUGHES for an opinion. I am not even sure if this Dale Hughes is a QC? (the name is familiar to me somehow - does anyone know this man?) This letter cost me 300 pounds and was written in a most unprofessional way. I got a few sheets of paper with some witness information on them. He wanted me to reply back on these by the next day already. Good thing the fax was invented and I happen to have a fax facility where I live! He had not called my main witness either. I told him to do so. Next day 17.09.03 he phoned me late in the evening and asked me to download a lot of extra materials, which took me and 2 others the whole night and the next day to do. He did still not mention to me which documents he was going to bring for the final production. Very late Thursday 18.09.03 he phoned me and wanted to dictate to me another instruction for the debate next morning, rather than the one I had handed in the 11.09.03 at his office. I told him my instructions were clear enough and I did not intend to change a single comma! He then arrived personally and I told him again my stand on this. I wanted him to inform me about the procedure rules for appealing the decision of the Judge to have this debate before the trial itself. I got no answer to that before he rushed home to do the last preparations for the debate next morning.
Are solicitors really so busy or is it pure collusion?
Friday the 19.09.03 - after I had waited three hours my solicitor came a few minutes before the hearing was going to take place at 12 oclock. He started to discuss the prosecution witnesses in full public, despite having promised the evening before to get a private room for consultations. He pressurised me to drop calling prosecution witnesses and even threatened to leave the case now in the last minutes before the debate and with the trial starting after the weekend. I was understandably not too happy, but felt I had to compromise under this voluntary coercion. He gave me no time at all for any considerations and he ignored the points I made. The confidentiality was surely broken again sitting in the public entrance to the court having a consultation on these important issues. Unprofessional, disgraceful, arrogant and disrespectful behaviour. Not acceptable at all.
The prosecution suddenly needs more time for preparations.
At the hearing Sheriff Liddel said to my solicitor, I have been told you are not available for part of the trial and indicated he could not be present all days of the trial, despite the dates having been agreed between these parties from the very beginning. Something is wrong here for sure. This information was also unknown to me. The debate never took place. Suddenly The PF wanted time to study the new defence line, and the case was adjourned again to the 03.10.03, despite Judge Liddel having said that no further adjournment would be allowed. The new defence line should not be a reason for an adjournment in itself that day since he had asked for the debate at a time he did not know the defence line at all. Maybe there were too many present in the public gallery that day. By the way I have still not been presented sufficient evidence material from the prosecution, maybe there now will be time to sort that out.
On top of all this supporters present during court hearings have been intimidated by the court officials. The interpreter were accused of having hearing problems and notes were not allowed to be taken again. Only a journalist from the local Fife Courier newspaper were allowed to take notes The last my solicitor promised me was that he would call me for a meeting next week. I wanted to make an appeal of this decision on the debate. My solicitor never called me as promised.
In the meantime I have taken leave of absence from the hearings, have studied and constructed a detailed case review, this summary and other documents, and have forwarded a long list of questions to both legal teams, to which I am still awaiting a reply.
Statement of Ulla Røder
og fortsættes i
The Role of the Jury.