Thursday, 5 July 2012

Bob Diamond grabs conversational control using first name terms

IN his book 'The Art of the Advocate', Richard Du Cann writes:  'Really the advocate has only one weapon:  words', and he continues:  'If the advocate is appearing for the Crown in civil or criminal proceedings he cross-examines in order to get to as near the truth as he can and not to secure a verdict.' 

Yesterday, the parliamentary committee of MPs failed to ask Bob Diamond, the former head of Barclays Bank, the crucial question as to if he thought that the Brown government or its officials wanted Barclays Bank to seek to adjust the Libor rate (interest rate for Banks) downwards.  As a consequence, because this question was not asked, it will now be difficult to establish if any untoward pressure or encouragement was brought to bear on Barclays by civil servants representing the Brown administration in the previous Labour government.

This morning one female participant in these seemingly never quasi-judicial parliamentary inquiries described them as 'Bun Fights', and another commentator said they were the modern equivalent of the Stocks.  For months now the quality of the level of advocacy and questioning of MPs as a means of getting at the truth has been challenged by solicitors and others as being rough and ready, poor and impoverished.

Today, the morning news broadcasts are fascinated by the novel tactic used by Bob Diamond to deflate the force of the investigators among the MPs.:  particularly his ready use of first name terms to address them.  We don't know how often Bob Diamond may have practised his performance in front of the mirror or tutors trying to refine his skills.  But this casual use of first name terms yesterday may have been an approach recommended by his advisers.  This tactic would certainly have been worthy of study and interest to a conversational analyst like the late Harvey Sacks.

On the question of style and the advocate Mr Du Cann writes:  'Probably more nonsense has been written about style in cross-examination than about any other single aspect of forensic advocacy.'  There is no miraculous style the win cases and illicit the truth and basically it is the effect on the day that counts and can lead to triumph or defeat in the investigation.  What the MPs who interviewed Bob Diamond yesterday, should now be asking themselves is the question Richard Du Cann puts in his book:  'Has the advocate done all he (or she) should for his client in testing the value of the evidence that has been given?'  Yesterday, the client who the MPs were representing in their cross-examinination of Bob Diamond was the general public, and on that showing we must doubt that we were well served by our representatives.

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