Judge slams split jury verdict
This is Justin Thyme, your court reporter pro tem. The usual guy is down with the flu and so I got lumbered. Not my favourite job. The courts have an air of gloom and doom about them. Any windows are high up so as to not cause any distraction. So much of this for an introduction, and now on with my report.
Judge Hamson, 68, yesterday slammed a jury because they could not agree with him after he had directed them to bring in a verdict of 'guilty'. The trial of the Very Reverend James Wallis, 45, on a charge of child abuse, produced only one witness for the defence; the Reverend gentleman himself.
As I arrived, the courtroom was crowded. The public gallery was full. The Counsels at the tables in the front of the court were chatting among themselves. Court officials were busy in front of the bench. At the designated hour the court usher rose from his table and faced the public gallery. His voice boomed out, "All rise!"
The crowd, including me, shuffled to its feet. The door in the corner opened and Judge Harrison entered. He crossed to his chair, sat down, murmuring "Be seated." After a momentary scuffle, we were all seated and the courtroom quietened down
When asked, "How do you plead?" the defendant replied "Not guilty."
The usher rose and intoned. "Call Constable O'Toole."
The constable entered and was sworn in. Prosecuting counsel, Mr. Patrick Rourke, rose and approached the witness. "Constable, please tell the court in your own words how you first became aware of the incident at the rectory on Thursday morning of last week."
"Well sir," the constable replied, "I was on foot patrol passing the rectory at..." Here he glanced at his notebook. "6.55 am. I became aware of female screaming. It appeared to be coming from an upstairs room at the rectory. The front door was locked so I went round to the back door which was shut, but unlocked. I entered the rectory"
"What did you do then?" Counsel asked.
"The screaming continued and so I ran up the stairs to find its source. I saw Mrs. Ryan standing in the doorway of the vicar's bedroom. There was a tray of broken crockery together with the contents of a teapot, milk jug and a sugar bowl on the floor at her feet. I looked around Mrs. Ryan and saw the defendant, sitting up in his bed. There was a naked child sitting on the pillow behind him."
"Then, what happened?"
"I told the vicar and the child to get dressed and tried to calm Mrs. Ryan. Eventually she stopped screaming and kept repeating 'Oh my, oh my.' I then arrested the vicar and conducted him to the police station. Meanwhile, the child claimed to have no clothing, so Mrs. Ryan found him something to wear."
Mr. Rourke sat down with a smirk.
Mr. Clive Ferguson, defending counsel, rose.
"Constable did either the vicar or the child give you any explanation for what you saw?"
"No sir. The child mumbled some nonsense about a witch, but the vicar seemed to be too overwhelmed by his arrest to say anything.
"Thank you, constable. That will be all".
The officer descended from the witness stand as Mrs. Ryan, 57, was called. The new witness was sworn in. Prosecuting counsel rose and asked. "Please describe, in your own words, the incident at the rectory last week."
"Yes, your honour." She bobbed in curtsy. "I got to the rectory at my usual time, half past six, and washed up the dishes from the last night's supper. I then..."
"No, Mrs. Ryan, that's not what I meant. What happened when you took the tray up to the vicar's bedroom?"
"Yes, your honour. Well, I opened the door to take the vicar's morning cup of tea to him. As usual the vicar was asleep. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, young Johnny Clarke, appeared behind the vicar's head." She slowed dramatically. "He was as naked as the day that he was born."
"No, young Johnny. I mean, he's a young scamp, but he's never pulled a trick like this before. I couldn't help reacting to the sight before me. That's when Officer O'Toole got there."
"Your witness." said Mr. Rourke, sitting down.
"Mrs. Ryan," said Mr Smith, approaching the witness stand. "You said that the vicar was asleep when you entered his bedroom?"
"Thank you Mrs. Ryan that will be all." As Mrs. Ryan stepped down from the witness stand, Mr. Rourke addressed the judge. "That m'lud concludes the case for the prosecution."
Mr. Smith rose saying, "I only have one witness, the defendant."
The defendant was called to the witness stand and was sworn in. Asked to describe the events leading to the discovery of a choir boy in his bed by his housekeeper, Mary Ryan he said:
"The previous afternoon, I was walking in the park, contemplating the following Sunday's sermon, when I heard a tiny voice, 'Please kind sir, can you please help me?' I looked around, but could see no one."
"I heard the tiny voice again, 'Please kind sir. I'm down here.' I looked down and I saw a toad looking up at me. To save the strain on both our necks, I sat down on the grass, being careful not to sit on the toad. 'Now.' I said, 'how can I help you?'"