By Jack Elliot
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Additional resources for Memoirs of a Barrister
We put an old sofa on the landing for clients. Unfortunately the springs on this sofa had expired. The clients, weary from their climb up the stairs, would lower themselves gratefully onto the settee only to plunge almost to the floor with startled screams. Looking back on those early days it seems incredible that we did not see fit to have the sofa repaired or replaced. Don had the front room subdivided, using the inner part himself and giving Keith the outer part which opened on to the corridor.
Mr Justice Richards enquired of me. ’ ‘Oh, very well,’ said the judge and further remanded my client for sentence. A week later he sentenced my client to a year’s imprisonment. In my view, a far too lenient sentence! But I had been given some salutary lessons. In future I would offer no unsolicited advice to prisoners. I would put to the court the matters on which they instructed me. And all instructions from persons charged with a crime would be reduced to writing by me and signed by them. I had learned that criminal behaviour could not be simply ascribed to a political or economic system.
The greatest demand for assistance came from the Police and Criminal Courts. From the time of my admission I was almost daily in the courts, as was my contemporary Micky Kinnane. On arraignment day, once a month, we were in the Criminal Court making speeches in mitigation for those who were pleading guilty. And at least one trial a month before a judge and jury occupied us for a few days defending prisoners who pleaded not guilty to the less serious offences. On the pleas of guilty I had encouraging results.
Memoirs of a Barrister by Jack Elliot