Ok one question which always is around my head.
You are lawyer and having that client-lawyer confidential thing right?
Your client told you that he raped and strangle three 4 years old girls. but he is on trial for just only one murder. What kind of man you should be to defend your client, when you must be quiet?
Am I right?
Ah, Tone, that is the most common question people ask. So I'll give you the complete (and perhaps not very exciting) answer:
In the English common law legal system in which I worked, there is a split between two types of lawyer: barristers and solicitors. In a case of the character you describe, solicitors do not usually represent the client in court, their job is to represent the client administratively and procedurally, to coordinate the defence if you like. The barrister is the one who stands up in court before the judge and questions witnesses and sometimes the defendant him/herself.
I started out wanting to become a criminal law barrister but my interest in that diminished over time and in fact I became more interested in something called judicial review - a small but fascinating area of English law in which the judiciary has the power to review public decisions.
I spent some time working as an assistant to both prosecution and defence solicitors in the criminal law. In the UK, the prosecution side is handled by the Crown Prosecution Service, a public sector organisation which acts as a prosecution solicitor and engages barristers (who can choose to work for either side, though the fee for defending is much higher). Meanwhile the defence is a private firm of solicitors engaged by the defendant either as a selection from a list provided by the police on his/her arrest (the 'duty list'), else it is the defendant's own choice.
In one of my last cases as an assistant for the defence, the defendant engaged my employer's firm from the duty list. He had been arrested by the police as the result of a complaint made by his children. These children had grown up and had children of their own and one of them had caught him behaving suspiciously with one of his grandchildren. A family dispute occurred and the defendant's children decided to make a complaint to the police in respect of themselves and their own history rather than what had just happened with the grandchild.
I had read the summaries of a lot of cases involving child abuse and these are never easy to read but it was the first time I came directly into contact with a case which was, as it were, happening in front of my eyes. I spent a week or so organising all the evidence, mostly witness statements and psychiatric reports going back forty or so years. When you do this job, you have to read everything in front of you, even if that is a big file or even several files.
And what happens is that you come to understand that it is never so simple as "Your client told you that he raped and strangle three 4 years old girls". Defendants who attack other people in this way are not one-dimensional figures. They are real and usually extremely complex people who are almost always victims themselves, doomed to repeat the evil done to them at an earlier time without ever breaking the generational chain that binds them to their own awful past. Sometimes these people understand their predicament but frequently they do not and when they do not it is because their own abuses were particularly terrible.
I do not want to suggest that one feels sympathy for the defendant. It is more like a generalised horror, indeed the worst kind of horror because it cannot be attributed to a single target in the way that we might find it convenient to demonise an Ian Brady, a Charles Taylor or a Ratko Mladic. It is much easier to construct a shooting gallery in one's mind than it is to take a broad view of abusive acts.
Then the day came when I met with the barrister and I went to court for the opening of the case. It happened by chance that there were several people in the building that I knew and yet somehow it was awkward to meet them there, knowing what I was doing there myself.
To cut a long story long, the defendant was an old, saggy and broken man. He had no sense of guilt and yet, as far as I could see, he was plainly guilty on the facts. He was a nobody. His own past, the past that might have brought some sense to all this, it was irrevocably obscured. He did not have the vocabulary to describe it and the outdated and outmoded psychiatry to which he had been subjected years ago had also failed to cast any light. In fact his past was all still there, it was just indecipherable.
Later that day, the defendant was acquitted in front of his children who had brought the complaint. I had read the files, the hours of witness statements spoken by the children and carefully transcribed. I did not doubt their veracity. But some of the key evidence - the contemporary psychiatric reports - were too old. The psychiatrists who had handwritten those reports in spidery, faded ink were all long since dead.
The defendant shook my hand and shuffled home with his wife, who was not the mother of the children. The defendant had married her after their mother had died. This second wife could not believe all this nonsense from the children and the acquittal had only justified that. There followed the children themselves, adults of course, who would now have to go home and get on with their lives, to look after their own children and to live with their past. I hoped they would break the generational chain that their father could not. I hoped their children would grow up happy. Or at least happier.
It was the beginning of the end for me. I didn't want to be part of that criminal legal system - not because what happened was the wrong result, but because I would have to immerse myself in this world all the time. To read those files, to meet those people. I wasn't that brave and I still am not.
The rule in English law is that a barrister must retire from the case without giving reasons if he/she discovers an admission of guilt when a plea of not guilty has been entered in court and that the defendant refuses to change the plea. To a solicitor, the issue of private admissions is not strictly relevant since the solicitor does not defend the client in open court before the people, though like the barrister the solicitor would be expected to recommend a change of plea.
So you may ask me what kind of man was I to defend this man, the defendant I described above? He is not so different to your example.
This man never got the opportunity to become a more complete person, a person who capable of living without the compulsion for attacking others, particularly vulnerable people. Nobody asked him as a child if he wanted to grow up damaged and doomed to repeat his damage, to act it out on others.
What he did was wrong but he deserved a defence as much as he deserved to be prosecuted. He deserved a defence because he was not a man who exercised complete control of himself. So the consequences of a legal case are whatever society decides, delivered in a way that society imposes on those who may deviate, but to my mind those who deviate always deserve a defence. To prosecute without a defence means that the story is never told. It is better to tell the story. That way, society can know itself and to know what it must do to protect itself, including future generations, from further damage.