November 30, 2021

Peter Polack: 5,000 Days on Bail book excerpt

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By Peter Polack

The day we first went to court my left hand started to shake so much I put it in my pocket like some half-Napoleon posture. It was not the first time this had happened but I feared embarrassment from a client who had put his life in my hands, a justice system that was determined to condemn an innocent man and the police glowering at me from their seats. It would be most humiliating to appear weak on the first go around. It was not weakness but nerves and an excess of determination. 

The courtroom was full as usual with people finding their seats, creepy lawyers seeking a favorable disposition for the many repeat offenders and an empty raised defendant bench in the center of the room as if some stage awaiting the actors to enter.

This was the most frightening small piece of real estate in the world. Much sweat and foreboding would have caked the floor if visible but it appeared clean even hygienic but for the round bull ring to secure security risks or the dangerous. Every square of the white tile had been closely studied over many years by eyes trying to avoid damning evidence or the looks of relatives hoping for the best result.

The hands on the large clock on the center of the wall inched towards ten o’clock when the past would become the present repeatedly in documents, photos and testimony. This was a place of no return for all who came to be judged and punished. There were few that ever escaped this damnation without some scar on their psyche that reappeared in an occasional nighttime horror or police stop. Some would have preferred to cower in a trench in World War 1 France waiting for the whistle to go over the top and face death which at least had finality to it.

“All stand” bellowed the corpulent bailiff as the judge entered from her private quarters directly connected to the court. Some judges were not so lucky and had to roam the streets in their prehistoric red costumes like clowns on the way to carnival instead of solemn arbiters of fate. Like many things they seemed unaware that time had moved on but they still clinged to the past like some worn security blanket.

By seniority I was first up to bat and the apprehension disappeared into the air as I rose to plead for bail. Shunting argument after argument I sought to go against the train that sent those charged with gun crimes straight to prison, no exceptions. I thought of the Alice in Wonderland tract, sentence first, verdict afterwards. The medical report on my client’s eye scraped raw on the asphalt in an overzealous arrest by the compliant helped but the best argument was the year my client was on police bail without breach as prosecutors and police meandered through the evidence before charging only one of four men in a car against whom the likely guilt was the most weak. Justice at its finest.

© Peter Polack   All rights reserved


Peter Polack is a former criminal lawyer in the Cayman Islands for several decades. His books are The Last Hot Battle of the Cold War: South Africa vs. Cuba in the Angolan Civil War (2013)Jamaica, The Land of Film (2017) and Guerrilla Warfare: Kings of Revolution (2019). He was a contributor to Encyclopedia of Warfare (2013). Polack worked as a part-time reporter for Reuters News Agency in the Cayman Islands 2014-16. His article Syria: The Evolution Revolution was published in the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center magazine June 2014. In October 2018 Defence Procurement International published an article on the Guerrilla Warfare book entitled What Do Today’s Jihadists Have In Common With Famous Guerrilla Fighters Of The Past? The Defence Procurement International Winter 2018 magazine featured his article Brief History of MRAP vehicles. In September 2019 an excerpt from the George Washington chapter of Guerrilla Warfare Kings of Revolution was published in the American Intelligence Journal, Vol 36, No.1. His most recent article Soviet Spymasters: The limits of democracy and Navalny was published in Foreign Policy News 7 March 2021. McFarland publishers acquired his latest book entitled Soviet Spies Worldwide: Country by Country, 1940–1988 to be published in 2022. The book is a compendium of Russian espionage activities with nearly five hundred Soviet spies expelled from nearly 100 countries worldwide. He has just completed Only the Young Shall Die by with Jack McCain about raising the age of military enlistment and a curated collection entitled War In Pictures of almost 1,000 images throughout several conflicts over many centuries.

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