About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Sitting in the Dock

As set out in my previous post, in the opening scene of Blackwater Bluff Augie de Graaf is skewering the mother of Darryl Birch on her alibi testimony when he pushes aside his lawyer and comes to the Crown table where he attacks her severely injuring her ankle.

Having practised criminal defence in Canada for over 40 years I could see the setting and imagine the chaos. What surprised me was that he was sitting at the defence table for a jury trial in superior court.

In Saskatchewan he would have been in the dock. It is one of the loneliest places in the world. An accused sits there during Queen’s Bench trials the focus of everyone in the courtroom.

Many English movies show accused coming from below up into the dock at the Old Bailey. There is a staircase going down from the dock to the holding cells a level below the courtroom. A photo of the Old Bailey courtroom is above.

In rural Saskatchewan courthouses the dock is located in the middle of the courtroom just inside the bar that divides the public from the front of the courtroom. It has a side entrance. During trials a police officer will sit next to that entrance.

For criminal trials in Provincial Court the accused will normally sit in the public seating behind defence counsel though on occasion will be allowed to sit at the defence table.

From watching American court on T.V. I see there is no dock and the accused sits beside his counsel at a table. I am sure most readers of this blog are old enough to visualize O.J. Simpson sitting with his dream team.

In Michael Connelly’s book Gods of Guilt Mickey Haller’s client is about to be convicted when he suddenly attacks Mickey gaining a mistrial. It was not spontaneous. Haller calls it the “bloody flag move” and defends the strategy as part of a vigorous defence. I call it sleazy and unethical.

Most days in Provincial Court in Melfort security is the RCMP court officer. I have never seen and do not expect to ever see an accused confront anyone in a courtroom.

I did miss the day in Melfort Provinicial Court when an accused leapt over a divider and escaped from the courtroom. His actions brought about some design changes.

The only time I have seen a lawyer injured in a court was in a jury trial when Crown Counsel, rushing to shut down a video link, tripped over a cable and hurt her leg. While she, as with most people, said she was alight I helped persuade her to go to the hospital. It turned out she had a broken leg. She was a determined woman returning to the trial that afternoon wearing a walking cast.

One of the quirks of the English language is the multiple meanings of words. Where dock for lawyers is the place in which an accused sits during trials dock is a pier for sailors. I do think it would be difficult to write a hit song featuring someone sitting in the dock waiting for judgment as opposed to “sittin’ on the dock of the bay watchin’ the tide, roll away”.

Blackwater Bluff by S.M. Hurley


  1. Oh, I was hoping you'd make reference to that song, Bill. I couldn't stop thinking of it as I was reading your post. Thanks for the insights on how the dock works in Saskatchewan. As it happens, I'm reading a novel right now in which there are courtroom scenes where an accused sits in the dock (it's set in Wales). It is a lonely place, and, yes, the accused gets stared at by everyone, which must make it that much worse.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Sometimes it is a touch eerie how we think alike. You cannot help but focus on the dock when there is someone sitting there.