Legal opinion has been written and after a while, sometimes long, the AG gives its nod for prosecution to go on. The file would be assigned a state counsel for prosecution. This is where the journey, most times tortuous, begins.
The designated State Counsel goes through the file, files the Information (He may have seen to the typing at his expense), it is assigned to court and consequently fixed for hearing. The melodrama sets in. The first port of call is to look for his witnesses.
The Police usually shy away from that task which is their responsibility and the buck is passed to you. You now call the witnesses. Rude answers follow either an outright insult for trying to ask him to come and testify; it could be a retort or any other class of disapproval! For those who may be ”willing” to come, you have to grease their palms.
The Police, the Medical Doctor, the Photographer and all other genres of experts are paid. In most cases, the state counsel foots the bill (there is no money provided by the State for that purpose, even if you write it down for reimbursement, it is usually a pipe dream, it will never come).
The Judge does not tolerate excuses, the Judge does not in most cases care why the witnesses are not there. You stand to be humiliated, chastised and embarrassed for a shortcoming that is not your making. The general belief is that the “State is not serious, they collect their salary for nothing” and the killer punch- “you have been compromised”.
To avert these reactions, the State Counsel goes out of his way to foot the bills of witnesses. In most cases the Complainant who is usually forced to attend, is not interested in helping out, you must find a way! Bear in mind that some/most of these witnesses are not ready to follow your dictates as to preparation, you may have to chase them about, interview and get them ready in places other than your office. To deal with Prosecution witnesses (they don’t pay you and generally you need them for your cases to go on, more than they need you. It is only a handful of them that are keen with their cases), patience and humility is the watchword; you must take shit! There is no big boy swag about it.
It is normally advised to get a warrant and arrest the witness, but you will foot the expenses of the police to do so. An unsuccessful bid by the Police to arrest means you pay again. How much are you then paid?
Would you go through these hassles every now and then? More questions than answers! Closely connected to this is the general malaise that you foot the bill for service by the Bailiff and other services rendered by court personnel so that you have a smooth sail.
You cannot ignore the fact that you have no control over these witnesses; they can be compromised or scared away et al. Your colleagues have your name in their bad book if you refuse to compromise. They can equally resort to blackmail to get you off.
At all time you are in battle, there is hardly a respite. Lots of things are at stake and you have to be seen as above board! You must deliver and meet the expectations against all odds! The result does not go our way at all times but we continue to forge ahead, learning from shortcomings and avoiding a repeat in the future!
Experience is the best teacher; I think differently before about State Counsel and chastise them at all times, but not anymore. I now wear this shoe and know where it pinches! To succeed as a State Counsel depends on several factors beyond your control, all must co-exist to your advantage and hardly do they.
This experience will come handy in the future, it is good to feel the pulse of the other side. I have been privileged to see it from private practice and now from a public perspective.
This is my story, what of you?
Author’s Profile – Ifeanyi Agwuncha is a State Counsel in the Ministry of Justice, Anambra State Nigeria. He is an avid researcher and commentator on legal cum sociopolitical issues on the social media where he has a wide followership. Ifeanyi is also a die hard Coach Jose Mourinho fan and could be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Postscript: Contributions are welcomed from other readers of the blog on their experience as either lawyers, law students or other members of the society on their experiences with or views about lawyers. Peace.
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