Standing up to deliver the verdict, I unexpectedly found myself feeling somewhat nervous. To my left was the large dock, made of a light-coloured wood, with thick, unbreakable glass panels stretching to the ceiling; Inside was the defendant, a burly man with sand-blond hair and sand-blasted face, set in an impassive expression.
'Please answer the following question yes or no,' said the Usher. 'Have you reached a verdict upon which you are all agreed?'
It had taken about an hour of wrangling in the jury room to get our decision unanimous. I had had my mind made up by the evidence by the previous day; A couple of jurors, however, still had reservations. It wasn't as if all the necessary evidence had been found, and the prosecution's case relied upon three principal witnesses, plus the unreliable narrative of the victim in the case.
'On count one, do you find the defendent guilty or not guilty of attempted murder?'
Over the past few days, some of the witnesses, including the victim, had used screens to preserve their anonymity. The events in question had taken place in Milton Keynes. In short, a drunken argument and a certain degree of animosity towards Travellers had led to a fight outside a pub, which the defendent had lost; In revenge, he later walked back into the pub, and stabbed the victim in 'the posterior chest, six inches below the axilla'. After stabbing the victim, he calmly walked out, returning some three hours later to warn the landlord that 'no fucking pikeys allowed in here'. He then went to the hospital, presumably to find his victim, where he was arrested. In subsequent questioning, under legal advice, he answered 'no comment' to the questions put to him.
Although the witnesses seemed to have inconsistencies in their recollection of what they had seen, one thing stood out; an arm flying, a glint of something in a hand, the hand connecting with the side of the body, the victim suddenly falling back, and realising what had happened after only a few seconds, saying 'I've been stabbed!'
'On the second count, do you find the defendent guilty or not guilty of wounding with intent?'
The defence case relied solely on the defendent himself. His version was that the other man had had a screwdriver in his hand, and that he'd knocked it out of the way - 'he must have stabbed himself.' How someone stabs themself in their own back, six inches beneath the armpit, is beyond me. During cross-examination, it became clear that this was a man with a very long history of hurting and maiming others. Maybe that was why I was nervous.
Delivering that single word meant that we had just changed his life. Although the actual sentence will not be delivered for a couple of weeks, it will inevitably be a custodial sentence, considering the man's history. And although there was a satisfaction from seeing the case end, I can't say it was an enjoyable thing. The defendent may have hurt, wounded and intimidated others, yet I took no pleasure from the idea of someone else going to prison.