For thirteen months I’ve been preparing to deliver evidence in court.
Oct 2014, I published a video of a fight on the tube. Almost overnight, It reached a quarter of a million views. Here’s the part people don’t see when a video goes “viral”.
The latter part of that weekend was spent in a police station giving a statement, getting every single tiny thing down on a page, checking it over and over. Asked if I was willing to attend court, I said yes- I believe in justice, accountability and I didn’t want this to happen again.
One man pleaded guilty to a charge affray, the other pleaded “not guilty” so a trial was scheduled for July.
I told a couple of people that a trial was prospective but when confirmed, it became a secret. I didn’t know what my life would look like in July and who would be around. I never know who to tell, trust, or who can offer guidance I would listen to. I didn’t want to burden anyone, or make them worry. The more time I took trying to find someone, the more complicated things got, so I internalised.
I also simplified – “just go, say what you saw, and it’s done.” right? Not really, not when you know your actions will directly affect another person’s life, you can’t simplify it. Though it was not my judgement to make, it was made clear that the entire case was based on my evidence and that the CPS needed me. So in agreeing to testify, I was making a judgement.
For me, this decision was a choice between two sets of values – compassion and hope or justice and accountability. In retrospect, I believed they were intertwined too.
I co-ordinated busy dates accordingly, communicated whenever I went away, returned the many phone calls etc. It was always in the back of my mind. And the pressure affected me in ways I didn’t expect.
I doubted myself. During one campaign we ran for reasons that I thought were blatant, I was described as “orchestrating” the issue. That word, I won’t forget that word.
I started to wonder if I “orchestrated” this –my intervention brought the issue to light. But if I didn’t, there was a situation where two men were throttling the victim up against the wall.
My decisions became a process of tearing myself up and putting myself back together again. My conclusions always the same, but it just made it a little harder to reach that point.
I trust my heart and my intentions are true- this is the rhetoric I live by but it keeps landing me in tricky situations and this time it wasn’t even my own trouble.
I followed similar cases and watched responses. I tried to apply guidance given to me from other situations from people I trust. Though this offered some comfort. I was cautious of this method of thinking – each situation is unique and should be treated as such.
My social media habits changed. I knew I was being watched on Facebook – someone attempted to hack into my account several times that day, and on top of that, there were already other people out there wishing to discredit my character.
Sometime before the trial, I was walked around court and told how it all works. I was asked if I wanted to “affirm” or swear on a holy book. My relationship with religion is confused and thus was my answer: “ So… which ones do you have?” She unveiled them all to me. “Ok, I’ll figure that out later.” Awks.
I went on holiday in July. I was pretty flaky in the planning process- I kept muddling my dates and I couldn’t give an explanation. Eventually sorting it and flying away was so worth it – I’m so glad I did that.
Back to the UK, the trial date came. They moved it to a different court. I arrive at 9.30am. No-one told me it was rescheduled for 2pm. They moved the trial to a different court. I arrive at 9.30am. No-one told me it was rescheduled for 2pm.
So I sat in a nearby coffee shop with nothing else to do but think. I don’t feel nervous or fearful of telling the truth. In fact, it’s the only thing I am confident at. But I didn’t know if this man’s life deserved to be changed…
I wondered if he was genuinely sorry for what he had done. And if he just got caught up – his actions were stupid but no necessarily intentional. Flashbacks of my own altercations, came to my mind – all my unintended mistakes and those who had forgiven me. I think about the opportunities I’ve been so lucky to have. I wondered if this had just gotten too far. I think about more severe situations, why didn’t justice prevail there? It’s all relative though right? Violence is violence. Wrong is wrong.
I took a look at myself – I was now jobless, tenancy about to end, no savings, no real plan. How could I seek “posterity”? Where had my outlook for truth and justice taken me? Finding a job was hard enough for me who’s been lucky enough to have so many opportunities including an education. I was potentially to take this from another person.
I thought of the victim. Was he too scared to testify? Or did he not care? I remember him looking me in the eyes after what had happened and saying thank you.
At this point I wish I had told someone, just so I could message them and tell them how annoyed I was of the time change.
I return to court and see the defendant talking to his lawyer through a glass room near reception. There was no-one to show me where the witness room was so I look away and wait in hope that he doesn’t see me.
Eventually I find the witness room and sit. And sit. And sit. Another hour passes. I use to struggle sitting in one place for so long. I get distracted. It seems someone before me needed inspiration too – they had written “Being Free –go to the nature & the silence, discover your inner voice” on a magazine.
The prosecution tell me the courts are overrunning. More time passes and they say the defendant successfully requested the court to be adjourned. The reason given was unclear – they said he hadn’t prepared his case.
They ask if I would come back in November.
“Is what I’m doing right? Is this trial worth it?”
“It was a vicious physical attack in a public place but his lawyers not having any of it”
I was naïve to think this was something I could get out of the way in July whilst I had the time. I thought I had it all calculated but truth is being unemployed meant that these thoughts consumed me – it made me utterly frustrated and restless.
I expected someone would contact me. It took a week and even then what happened wasn’t explained. I chased. I was later told charges of “assault” were added and that’s why the defendants request to adjourn was approved. Another date. A third court.
The adjournment was my opportunity to ask the questions I’d wanted to ask. I contacted the officer who was at the scene and who took my statement. He was brilliant. I recall one day when I was busy with my work commitments, he and a colleague, came and collected my phone from me and gave it back the same day.
Knowing he couldn’t say much, I explained the moral dilemma I faced. He responded, highlighting points I had made surrounding accountability, risk of re-offence, and moral duty. His input, diligence and respect is by far the most positive part of this story. He encouraged me to speak to my witness care officer and friends.
It was too late to speak to friends, but November arrived and I received the “pre-trial checks” email. I replied asking why I was the only one willing to testify, where the victim was, and whether the charges of assault was brought upon one man or both. To me, it seemed unfair that a potentially more damaging charge was to brought to the man attempting to prove innocence. I asked for guidance. I didn’t get any answers to my questions or even an acknowledgement of them.
Instead a week before the trial I receive an email saying the trial was discontinued. Again I chased asking why. The CPS chose to drop the charge of affray in favour of assault charge however as they never had a statement from the victim and couldn’t locate him, would never be able to get a conviction.
At this point, I just wanted to smash my head against my desk. This didn’t make sense to me and if this was the case the trial should have been discontinued earlier. After much time thinking about this, I don’t have a strong sense of whether or not a charge should have been placed on him, so this isn’t something I’d pursue. Not only that, but the intensity of the last year was almost a punishment in itself. And the male that caused the most violence was charged. I do however, think the CPS need to make clear what they are doing. This is a bold statement for someone who knows relatively little, if anything about formal justice, but it’s an observation.
I responded saying how relieved I felt that this was concluded but how I no longer had faith in the CPS given their confused decision.
It made an impact on the public. It led to a process of accountability and justice. It served it’s purpose. I don’t believe these men will act like that again. Today I’ve removed this video from the public domain. They should now be able to get on with their lives free from this. At the time I was asked if I wanted to sell it, monetizing, or seeking “likes” was never my intent.
These messages however were. Here they are:
– Be aware of those around you
– Know where your nearest “emergency button” is, use it
– Don’t be afraid to stand up to bullies
– A standard “brawl” or just three idiots could lead to innocent people getting hurt. Don’t excuse it.
I received some criticism over making the video – evidence is important, it’s better to have it than not.
Thank you to everyone who wrote positive comments and sent me messages. At the time I was quite overwhelmed and I wanted to keep my head clear for what was ahead so although I didn’t say it then, thank you. It was assuring to know that calling the authorities and attempting to intervene was the right thing. Not only that, it meant a lot to know people understood my intentions
I should have raised my concerns earlier.
I wasn’t asked for feedback but here’s some. Those willing to commit as a witness are likely to have a genuine desire to support justice. This means when decisions are made that appear confused, or your process is disorganized and we’re messed around, it can cause us to lose faith.
Thoughts, time and energy
Every thought we conjure is precious. It’s like gold dust. Every second too, I feel I wasted mine. I wonder, had I focussed on other things in my life at this time when things were so uncertain, could I have made better decisions or achieved more over the year? Only I can be accountable for that – these were my choices and mine alone. I can’t turn back. I did what I thought was right.
Mostly, I feel confident in knowing what justice is and applying my actions and decisions appropriately. But here, I didn’t. I didn’t have the information, I didn’t know the full extent of the situation and this confused my sense of knowing whether or not to testify. This is how the system works. Sometimes, it’s not always black and white. Instinct is all you have, and it’s best to follow it.
I struggled with knowing the impact of this on the defendant. He put himself in that position, not me. The truth is, every action we take has an impact on another’s life. Our choices in what we buy determine who’s business will succeed. This was just a more direct, brutal way of doing that. Whilst it’s a gut-wrenching feeling knowing that person will see us, we can’t let it deter us from speaking truth. We also must put more thought into our choices that indirectly affect others – they are of equal importance.
If placed in this situation again, would I agree to testify?
Everyone wonders why no-one bothers to stick around and help in these situations. Now, I kind of understand it. Time, commitment and responsibility is a burden. The truth is, if I were to do this over, I would agree to help. If the trial was to have gone ahead, I would have testified.
Here’s why- I believe we must all be accountable for our actions – the way in which these men behaved was completely unacceptable. This public world we go through everyday on our travels is our world, and we have to take care of it.
Secondly, amongst the supportive messages through the video (thank you by the way), there were those who told me “snitches end up in ditches” and that I deserved to get slapped up too. It these violent thugs with their violent words that will make me side with the [albeit disorganised] CPS. I’ll call the CPS out on their flaws, but I won’t be scared to hold you to account.
I hope this experience helps others going through the process. Know that these issues frustrate us all but there is bigger reason and purpose to stick with it. Justice isn’t always clear cut, just do you best to inform yourself and trust your instinct.
Peace and Love