Friday, 17 February 2012

Hatred, Ridicule and Contempt: The Plaintiff Is Cross-Examined

Former star footballer turned charity organiser Jonjo Donnelly is in the witness box, undergoing cross-examination from Thomas Campbell QC on behalf of the Black Country Herald...

Once more Campbell let Donnelly’s uncomfortable silence answer the question before moving onto the details of the visit scheduled for the following day.

“So you only found out on the previous evening that the Suba-Mocanu Institute was in fact some form of isolation facility that could not receive visitors?”

“Yes, that's right.”

“What made you select this institute for a charity drop in the first place?” Campbell knew that he could not anticipate the answer to such a question, but was thinking well ahead in asking it. Donnelly paused for a little longer than usual.

“I'd asked for details of orphanages in need of aid supplies, within reasonable striking distance of Bucharest, so that I could draw up a shortlist. Er... The Romanian embassy in London gave me all the details.”

“Did it not occur to you to make sure that the intended recipients of your gifts were in a position to welcome their distributors in the normal way?”

“I assumed that if the embassy had given me the right information, everything would be in order. With the benefit of hindsight, I wouldn’t have been making a drop there.”

“You assumed again. You didn't make sure?”

Once more, only silence in reply. Behind counsels’ row, Holroyd leaned over in Alex's direction and made a whispered comment to the effect that he was not surprised that Donnelly had been reluctant to defend the mission’s organisation.

“So you decided, after hearing this news about Suba-Mocanu, that you would look after that delivery alone?”

“Yes, just me and my two personal assistants.”

“Was it not unusual, in the circumstances, to have made that journey without any of your drivers?” Campbell had thought a great deal about this aspect of the story in his preparation. While the underlying anomalies would provide scope for pointed questions upon the implications of finding this out, there was still something that did not add up about the entire account of that leg of the mission. However, he knew that there was no advantage in leading the judge and jury too far down the road of mere speculation.

“I thought about it. It was all on main roads, so I knew that I could keep the number of visitors to an absolute minimum without any real difficulty.”

“Could the Institute not have arranged to collect the supplies from the hotel, if they were that concerned about visitors?”

“Well, maybe they could, but they agreed to what I proposed.”

“And yet you did not tell the driver that you were going to go off with his lorry, in the small hours of the following morning?”

“We left him a note. By the time we found out about the problems with the Institute, it was too late to break the news.”

“Too late?” This even appeared to take Campbell by surprise for a moment, but he found a telling response. “You just told us that you had to call off a social evening for the group because of what you had found out. If that really was the case, surely you could have told the driver much earlier?”

Donnelly seemed to bite back the response that he had been about to make. Nervously, he flicked through the pages of his statement. From his vantage point, the judge seemed to be giving Donnelly a hard look. Campbell tried another prompt.

“Which way do you want it?”

After a period of silence more prolonged than any so far, Donnelly put the bundle of statements aside.

“I suppose I must have made a mistake.”

“A mistake. And what about the fact that the overland party were left at the hostel all morning, without any information as to what was going on?”

“I'm sure that I left a message explaining what would be happening that morning.”

“With whom did you leave the message?”

“Er... I can’t remember. As I’ve said, hindsight’s a wonderful thing, but we wouldn’t have arranged to go there if I’d known.”

Campbell took his point to have been adequately made and moved on...

So what was going on in Romania? And what made Donnelly take such offence at what was published in the newspaper? To find out, click here...

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