The suicide of Frances Andrade, the complainant in a sexual abuse case, highlights a difficult but necessary part of the criminal defence lawyer’s job: putting an unattractive case to a vulnerable witness.
The role of the defence advocate is to put their client’s case to the complainant. We don’t concoct a defence or tell our client what to say in order to “get them off”. But we must fearlessly defend those accused, regardless of our own thoughts and feelings. We are not there to judge, we are there to enable the evidence to be tested. It is the role of the jury to determine guilt, not ours. In testing that evidence it may be necessary to put certain, rather unattractive, suggestions to the complainant, and if those are our instructions we have a duty to put them.
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The simple truth of the matter is that some bits of the criminal justice system are unpalatable. Without criminal lawyers putting their client’s case properly and robustly, there would be no criminal justice system at all.