|Preparations for UWE mock murder trial.|
|The prosecution team.|
The first prosecuting barrister stood to tell the story of what happened on the night in question, of the tension between the Dancys and the Delanys, and how it mounted over a number of weeks, culminating with one teenage boy lying, mortally wounded, on Memorial Road, another, injured and on the run. How traumatic it would be for the mothers of both boys, I thought as I imagined them watching from the public galleries, and for the young witnesses, who must now speak of what happened, and have their testimony scrutinised in this cold and intimidating environment.
|The murder weapon!|
Thomas Dancy, played by Paul Dodgson, was called as the first witness, and I was stunned when he entered the room; with grey curly hair falling over his forehead and piercing blue eyes, it seemed that a person I'd invented had become real. He wore a not-entirely-formal jacket over a soft-collared shirt, and his hands gripped the stand as he spoke, rocking back and forth occasionally, wholly uncomfortable. His head tilted and he covered his mouth as he recounted what happened, the incidents leading to the death. "They're very intimidating people," he said, of the Irish Travellers that had moved, overnight, into his paddock at Silverweed Farm.
|Thomas Dancy takes the stand.|
|Punky swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.|
The next witness, Dean, played by Nathan Scott, seemed unhinged in precisely the way I'd imagined him in the book, drawing, as I was, from my teen experience of troubled young men without father figures, already in thrall to their addictions. Dean backed up Punky's version of events and shuffled uncomfortably at the stand. The defence was delighted to see he was much taller than the accused and made his assertion, that the defendant had headbutted him, seem absurd as a result. Halfway through proceedings, things were looking hopeful for the defendant.
Leanne, played by Sashni Chelvam, was another revelation, seeming to have matured in the years since the incident. The defence managed to get her to agree that her behaviour had been hateful, and I began to understand the way that advocacy works, grew captivated by the process with which the prosecution and defence battle to take control of the story.
|Iris Dancy is cross-examined.|
|HHJ Johnson, Senior Lecturer in Law at UWE, James Lloyd, Defence and Prosecution teams and ginger me.|
After all the witnesses had been cross-examined and re-examined, the closing speeches were made, and the juries went out to deliberate. Returning after an hour or so, they found the defendant not guilty of murder, and he was released. Finally, the students broke roles, and there was much laughter as the actors and students mingled. Promotional photos were taken, and the defendant admitted he was relieved to be able to smile, if only for a moment.
|Me and Fraser (the happily acquitted defendant).|
It was an incredibly moving and inspiring day, and I am eternally grateful to Liz Cunningham, James Lloyd, all the UWE students involved, as well as the actors, and Glenn Duckworth, who filmed proceedings, as well as real-life judge, Robin, for giving their time and energy to make this fantastic event happen. For me, it was a dream made real, to see my characters come to life - and I shan't forget it. The experience so affected and intrigued me that I've begun working on a novel, inspired by the experience.
For those of you who have read the book, are you surprised at the verdict? And do the characters look the way you imagined them in your heads?