I've never been handcuffed. An unsurprising statement from a barrister you might think but more than you may guess have seen the back seat of a police car. Often people fight violently when being arrested but very often they go quietly. I've often wondered what it must feel like experiencing that immediate loss of liberty. The first time, as for many things, must be frightening and unknown but I can easily imagine how quickly 'here we go again' sets in. The sensible thing, no doubt, is to surrender. The state has taken over and you'll have to navigate the river as best you can rather than perish trying to swim against the tide.
Lockdown is not, in important and obvious respects, the same as being locked up but it is nonetheless the case, for the vast majority of people, that their liberty has been constrained in a way they will never have known before. In my case I have had the good fortune of experiencing this with my wife and children.
It is often said of the early years that they go so fast and it has been an unexpected bounty for me that I have been able to be present all the time for these days, weeks and months with my children. But sometimes serving the sentence is not the hard part, the hard part is release and the obvious question: What now?
I am both fortunate and unfortunate in my profession. Being self-employed I am not eligible for furlough I also, however, fall outside the government's scheme to assist the self-employed. Lockdown has essentially rendered me unemployed BUT barring total cataclysm my job is not going anywhere. The administration of justice is part of the key work of society even if contempt and indifference has often felt like its reward.
Practice as a barrister is to live your life to a constant drum beat. That drum beat represents the pressure of your caseload. Sometimes it's a gentle tapping on the snare, other times it's a relentless pounding on the bass drum keeping you awake half the night or worse. The thing is it never stops but since March it has. And suddenly there was bird song and breathing and children's laughter.
The announcement of the resumption of jury trials represents a liberation from lockdown. It is extremely unclear at the moment whether this will be a meaningful return to work in the near future or months of a trickle of carefully selected cases. There are literally thousands of cases and victims, witnesses and defendants waiting to see their day in court.
It is going to be essential that the courts have careful regard to listing cases in such a way that barristers with caring responsibilities can make themselves available. The courts may also have to hope that barristers who have been fully present in their family's lives, often for the first time, want to make themselves available.