A number of families will be facing an appeal board over the next few weeks. Eleven Plus appeal boards are often, but not always, made up of a Chair Person – a worthy individual – assisted by two or three lay persons. There is often a legal person who makes notes and asks for clarification of points. The school is represented by one of the staff who has to tell the board that there is no place in the school for the applicant.
When a defendant is sent to trial there are, once again, no hard and fast rules as it seems that expediency is an important part of the legal system. When the defendant is brought to trial he or she is place din the hands of the jury – and this is normally twelve men and women. There must be exceptions – but British subjects are expected to serve on a jury. Usually property owners or rate payers are on the lists – but certain professions are excepted.
The jury is not expected to decide on questions of law – because their function is to try issues of fact. The Judge has to look after the rights of the defendant. Witnesses are submitted to cross examination – in order that the truth of the statement can be tested. The jury then hears speeches from Counsel and the Judge then sums up the case to the jury. The jury, of course, tries to remain impartial. Convicted prisoners can appeal to the Court of Appeal.
A defendant is deemed to be innocent until he or she is proven to be guilty.
The prosecution must prove the case by admissible evidence – and not by assumptions.
The defendant has a right of appeal on a question of law.
When parents are thinking about what to say to the Eleven Plus appeal board they may care to consider the present attitude to justice in England.
Parents must try to present facts – not opinions. It will not sway an Eleven Plus Appeal Board very much if parents maintain that one of their child’s teachers once said that their child had a good chance of passing the examination. A letter from the teacher or the head will of course be part of the evidence – and it is likely that these letters will be made up of pertinent facts. “She is a lovely child,” will not be considered to be a weighty pronouncement.
Parents do need, where possible, to savour the moment. Ernest and caring men and women will be hearing impassioned pleas from anxious parents. During the first hearing of the eleven plus appeal board the child is still a potential eleven plus candidate.
The former Lord Chancellor of England, Lord Buckmaster, once said:
`Law and Legal Procedure have always been a mystery to the uninitiated, a snare to the unwary, and a red rag to the unhappy man.’
During the discussions, while the appeal is taking place, parents can ask questions and ask for clarification on points of law. Careful preparation is important. Do you remember Benjamin Franklin who said: “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”