How do you sleep at night?
I know, I know – it’s a cliché. But it is a question that I am constantly asked as soon as I tell people that I am a criminal defence lawyer.
There are a number of answers, some true, some not true and some said out of frustration from being asked for the one millionth time [eg: there’s nothing quite like the rush you get when a guilty man walks free]. Wait… before you comment, that is a joke – and not mine; courtesy of a well-known Sydney silk (name withheld).
A large majority of our clients are very nice people, people with good jobs and from middle-class backgrounds who are accused of doing something ill thought out or just plain silly. It is easy to relate to and therefore defend those people.
At other times, what we do can be tough. As a criminal defence lawyer you are sometimes called upon to defend the indefensible, the depraved and the wicked. Mostly however, people who have offended, even those who have done something truly awful, have something likable about them, something you can empathise with or even pity – that can make the job a little bit easier.
Our job is not to focus on what our client has or hasn’t done but to examine and test the evidence relied upon by the Crown (with their considerable resources) to ensure that an accused person receives a fair trial and is only punished for an offence if their guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt. Everybody is entitled to that protection, no matter how deplorable their alleged offences are. That’s what a good criminal defence lawyer does and doing it well helps you sleep pretty soundly.
Now, I foresee that some of you won’t be able to resist commenting angrily below – and those of you that do, just won’t get it and may never get it– at least not until you or a loved one are staring down the barrel of serious criminal charges. Then you may understand the need for a great criminal defence lawyer.