A BAIL APPLICATION
Much as though they had wanted to party the night away, it was an impossibility as Tyler’s bail hearing was the following morning. They owed Tyler a clear head, at least. Dylan did however manage to make himself very drunk by the time they left Joe Bananas at 9.00pm, and thus had a stinking hangover when Ben poured a cup of water over him at 7.30am the following morning.
“Ahhhhh!” screamed Dylan, as he bolted upright. “You bastard! You didn’t have to do that!”
“Yes I did”, said Ben. “I’ve been shouting at you for the last half an hour. Get up!”
“What time is it?” Dylan croaked.
“It’s 7.30am. We have to meet Yap at 9.00am. Come on!”
Dylan dragged himself up and showered. Amazingly, they managed to catch a taxi almost immediately, and were sitting outside Court No. 27 just after 9.00am. Yap was nowhere to be seen. Dylan sat down on one of the chairs provided and yawned. Then he grinned.
“Bet you never thought you’d see me sitting outside court again”, he said. “God, I hate the law. Almost wish I was back in the container.”
“Really? I wasn’t going to file it, you know. Why should I waste my career on a layabout like you?”
“That’s not what you said last night.”
“Well, I was drunk last night. Oh, here’s Richard.” Richard Yap appeared in his flowing black gown, looking suave and very sophisticated. “Morning, Richard” said Ben.
“Good morning Ben. Let’s hope it’s a good morning for young Tyler.”
“What are the chances, Richard?” said Dylan.
“I’ve told Ben my views, Dylan. Tyler will be a lucky man if he gets bail. However...is that money available today?”
“Yes”, said Ben. He had finalized the $1 million overdraft the day before, not without much pleading to the firm’s bank manager.
“OK” said Yap, “let’s go.” He went to talk to another barrister he knew who was due to appear in the adjoining court. Ben and Dylan went into Court No.25. It was empty. They took their appointed places in the second row. Yap would address the court from the front row.
“I still can’t believe this”, said Ben. “A few months ago I was happy plodding along, with a bail application here and there, a conveyance or divorce or two, and had never heard of the Tang Clan. Now, my best friend has been charged with murder and my partner has been kidnapped. What next?”
“Perhaps you’ll get laid”, said Dylan. “Very funny.”
“Well, a few months a go I would have said the chances were very much the same as me being kidnapped.”
“Have you forgotten about Mandy?”
“No, but I had hoped you had.”
Ben was just about to lay into him when Richard Yap entered the court with opposing Counsel, who looked young and inexperienced. A bit of luck at last, thought Ben. Counsel took their seats as Dylan gave Counsel’s name to the clerk of the court. All then sat silent for a couple of minutes until there was a loud knocking and Judge Goulding entered.
Judge Goulding was a kindly old soul who had been a High Court judge for as long as Ben could remember. Certainly, he was sitting when Ben had arrived in Hong Kong. They couldn’t really have hand-picked a better judge. Silver-haired with spectacles, he resembled a favourite uncle. The clerk called the case.
Tyler was led in from the side door which led to the holding cells. He looked drawn and pale. He did however manage to give Dylan and Ben a weak smile, which they both returned. The judge coughed.
“Yes, Mr. Yap” said the judge.
“Yes, My Lord. This is an application for bail pending trial of the defendant in this case, Mr. Tyler Scott.”
“But Mr. Yap, this is a murder charge” said the judge.
“I am well aware of that, My Lord, but the circumstances are most unusual.”
“They will have to be, Mr. Yap”, said the judge. “Mr. Leong, do you object to the application?” Prosecution Counsel rose to his feet.
“I certainly do, My Lord. As you say, it is a murder charge, and thus the possibility of flight must be strong. He is after all an expatriate, with little ties to the community. Plus, the evidence against him is very strong. There is an eye-witness who saw him fleeing the scene of the crime, and his fingerprints are all over the murder weapon. We certainly do strongly object to bail.”
“Thank you, Mr. Leong. Mr. Yap?”
Yap did a masterful job of portraying Tyler as a pillar of the community, mentioning the free legal advice he gave every week for the Duty Lawyer Scheme, his distinguished record as a solicitor both in Hong Kong and England (Dylan gave Ben a small smile at this), the fact that he completely denied the charge, and the fact that the firm of Roberts McCann were prepared to put up $1 million of their own money as bail money. This last fact clearly impressed the judge.
“Thank you, Mr. Yap. Well, Mr. Leong, we are dealing here with an officer of this court, of previous good character, who has a security of $1 million. That surely is enough for you?”
“Well, My Lord...no...yes...” Leong was flustered. His solicitor sitting behind him gave him a piece of paper. “Mr. Yap, is it correct that the defendant has no previous convictions?” said the judge.
“Indeed that is the case, My Lord, there is not a stain on his record.”
“Very well, then, I will grant....”. Leong interrupted him waving his piece of paper.
“My Lord, we have additional information. I am instructed that the defendant was charged and convicted of a criminal offence 5 years ago in England. The defendant was originally charged with theft, and did not answer to his bail granted during those proceedings. He was thus convicted of the offence of absconding.”
A gasp escaped from Ben and Dylan. They turned around to look at Tyler. His aghast face told it’s own story.
Yap also seemed taken aback. “May I take instructions on this point, My Lord?” he said.
“I think you’d better”, said the judge, crossly. He did not seem at all amused. Ben stood up to whisper to Tyler, who sadly admitted it was true. Ben looked at Tyler in amazement. He was not so bothered that he had a conviction, but at the fact that he hadn’t told him. Ben whispered to Yap it was true.
“My Lord, I am instructed it is true. I would submit however that the offence for which my client was convicted was a trivial one, and should have no bearing on this application, which after all is in relation to a far more serious offence.”
“That is true, Mr. Yap. But I am very concerned that an officer of this court would submit through you a clear record when that was clearly not the case. And an absconding record at that.” The judge shook his head. “Anything more, Mr. Yap?”
“No, My Lord” said Yap.
“Very well then. In the circumstances, I have no alternative. Bail is refused. Good morning to you all.” With that the judge stood up, bowed, and left the courtroom. Tyler was led away to the cells. Yap shrugged his shoulders, and left court with opposing counsel. Ben and Dylan were left sitting alone in court, stunned.
They finally raised the energy to go downstairs to the cells. Dylan was angry and wanted an explanation from Tyler. Ben told him to calm down, anger would not help. They handed their Law Society cards to the policeman and waited in the small interview room. A few minutes later Tyler was led in by another policeman, who then left them alone. Ben and Dylan stared at Tyler, awaiting an explanation.
“Look, I’m sorry. I should have told you”, he said. “I didn’t think that they would have that record. They usually don’t. I thought if the court was aware that I had jumped bail before then I had no chance.”
“But we could have worked around it if you’d told us! It caught us by surprise, making us look like idiots! Praising your virtuous character! What happened anyway?” Dylan shook his head more in bewilderment than anger.
“It was a crazy thing”, said Tyler. “I was accused of shoplifting when I clearly hadn’t done it. I was completely innocent. The thing was, I had booked a holiday in Jamaica during the time I was on bail. I wrote to the cops before I went asking them to change my reporting time. They said they never received the letter. The court didn’t believe me. The stupid magistrates convicted me of absconding. I was acquitted of the charge of shoplifting, the police had no evidence at all. But the absconding conviction remained.” He shook his head sadly. “What a cock-up” he said.
“A cock-up indeed” said Ben softly, feeling very sorry for him. Dylan was silent.
“What now?” said Tyler.
“Well, we have Stan Baxter’s lads on full-time looking for leads. I’m sure they’ll come up with something soon. Don’t worry.” But Tyler did look worried.
“You know, for the first time, I’m scared. The evidence against me is strong. If I was on a jury, with the evidence at the moment, I would convict. Life imprisonment.” His voice shook.
“I promise you, Tyler, we’ll get you out of this. I guarantee it. Won’t we, Dylan?”
“Of course. Just hang on, Tyler. I know it’s tough, but everything will turn out OK, you’ll see.” The guard knocked on the door. They wanted to take Tyler back to Lai Chi Kok prison.
“OK, we’ll be back in a couple of days, Tyler, to give you a progress report” said Ben.
“Yeah, don’t shag too many of those jailbirds” said Dylan. Tyler smiled.
“I think my shagging days are over for a while, Dylan.” He was led away and the door closed.
Ben looked at Dylan and shook his head. “He’s in big trouble”, said Ben. “You’re not kidding.”