“Thank you for that submission.”

One of the areas where law and linguistics intersect is in the study of the linguistic interaction of participants in court proceedings—an area known as “courtroom discourse.” Publications in this field tend to have titles like Discourse Dynamics in the Courtroom, Exploring Courtroom Discourse: The Language of Power and Control, and Power Relations in Courtroom Discourse.

While I’m a participant in courtroom discourse, this is an area of linguistics that I haven’t focused on, and I don’t know much about it. However, I recently came across some raw data that might be of interest to those in the field. I’m making it available here in the interest of science.

The data in question consists of the transcript from a criminal proceeding in Australia, excerpts from which are set out below. Please note that a certain amount of stage-setting will be necessary, before we get to the relevant discourse segment, but patience will be rewarded.

At the start of the hearing, the defendant’s barrister told the judge that it would be necessary for him and his instructing solicitor to seek permission to withdraw from representing the defendant:

 MR MACKENZIE:  …When [my solicitor and I] arrived at the Legal Visits Section [of the gaol] yesterday we were informed that the prisoner did not want to leave his cell block area, that he refused to speak with us.  There was some colourful language used and it was made very clear that he was unhappy with both my instructing solicitor and my preparation of this matter.

This morning I made sure that all of the parties were advised.  We attended at 9.15 at the telephone area to go to the cells.  We contacted the cells this morning and we were again informed that in no unclear circumstances was it the case that Mr Baker wanted to speak with us at all, and then we came to the Court this morning at about 10 minutes to 10 where Mr Baker was in a clearly agitated mood, was very aggressive and very threatening, clearly told my solicitor that he was sacked, unusually indicated that he didn’t really have a problem with me, which was different from yesterday, but he certainly was dissatisfied with his legal representation.

In all of those circumstances, it is necessary for my solicitor to seek leave to withdraw and for myself to seek leave to withdraw at this stage.

The judge noted that this was “the second occasion on which the trial has fallen over because he’s sacked his legal representatives.” The defendant’s barrister then told the judge about a procedural wrinkle: “The situation is that if he is unrepresented, the complainant will have to be cross-examined by someone other than himself.” This was because the charge against the defendant (attempted murder) was a “Prescribed Special Offense,” which meant that the complainant was a “Protected Witness.”

MR MACKENZIE:  Under 21O he doesn’t have – he won’t have a legal representative and there must be a ruling by the Court that she’s a protected witness for the proceeding.  He must be advised that he may not cross-examine her.

HIS HONOUR:  Yes.

MR MACKENZIE:  And he must be advised that legal aid can be available free of charge for him.

The prosecution didn’t want to the trial to be delayed:

 MR KINSELLA:  …Given the circumstances, it’s the Crown’s position that the trial should continue.  For him to be allowed to proceed without the – sorry.  For him to be allowed to sack his counsel, or his legal representation on a second occasion and, as a result, mean that the trial does not proceed, in my submission, really indicates a contemptuous attitude towards this Court and also the criminal justice system of itself.

And with that background, let’s pick up the transcript as the judge prepares to have the defendant brought into the courtroom:

HIS HONOUR:  Well, I suppose the first thing we’ve got to do is get him in and see (a) if he’s going to behave himself and (b) if he’s going to listen to what I’m going to say and (c) make it clear to him in no uncertain terms that the matter is proceeding.

MR MACKENZIE:  Yes.  But at this stage I simply withdraw – ask for leave to withdraw.

HIS HONOUR:  Well, I won’t give you that leave just yet, gentlemen

MR MACKENZIE:  Yes, your Honour.

HIS HONOUR:       but I think you should, if you don’t mind, remain here

MR MACKENZIE:  Yes, your Honour.

HIS HONOUR:       at least for the time being until we see what his reaction is going to be to the notion of the trial proceeding.  You never know, you may be unsacked in the very near future once the realisation comes home to him that this trial is proceeding come what may.

HIS HONOUR:  Righteo, could we have him in, please?

Mr Baker, stand up, please.

I have been informed, Mr Baker, that you wish to dispense with the services of your solicitor and as a consequence of that your barrister is also seeking leave to withdraw, which means you will be self-represented for this trial.  Do you understand that?

DEFENDANT:  Yes.

HIS HONOUR:  So you’ll be representing yourself for this trial, do you understand?

DEFENDANT:  No, no way in the world.

HIS HONOUR:  Yes, way in the world, Mr

DEFENDANT:  No, no

HIS HONOUR:       Baker.

DEFENDANT:        way in the world.

HIS HONOUR:  Mmm.  The trial

DEFENDANT:  I’ll get a – I’ll get a new solicitor and barrister.

HIS HONOUR:  No, you tried that last time, Mr Baker.

DEFENDANT:  No.

HIS HONOUR:  The trial

DEFENDANT:  Look – now listen here, mate, you don’t know what you’re fucking talking about.

HIS HONOUR:  Now you listen to me

DEFENDANT:  No, no.

HIS HONOUR:  No, you listen to

DEFENDANT:  Don’t come blooming start your shit, right, mate.

HIS HONOUR:  You listen here, Mr Baker

DEFENDANT:  You don’t there – you weren’t fucking there so don’t start your crap.

HIS HONOUR:  Mr Baker

DEFENDANT:  Were you there?

HIS HONOUR:  Mr Baker

DEFENDANT:  Were you there?  Were you there?

HIS HONOUR:  Now, Mr Baker

DEFENDANT:  No you fucking weren’t.

HIS HONOUR:  Mr Baker

DEFENDANT:  Because the arseholes did the wrong thing.  Right?  Read your fucking paragraph or your scripts, mate.  Don’t start putting your fucking heavy crap on me.

HIS HONOUR:  Now, Mr Baker

DEFENDANT:  You can get stuffed.

HIS HONOUR:       the trial will be

DEFENDANT:  I don’t give a

HIS HONOUR:       preceding

DEFENDANT:       fuck, you and your trial, mate.  Stick your trial up your fucking arse.  I’ll go.

HIS HONOUR:  Sit down please, Mr Baker.

DEFENDANT:  … No, fuck you.  You don’t tell me what to do, who do you think you are?

HIS HONOUR:  Sit down please, Mr Baker.

DEFENDANT:  No, get stuffed.

HIS HONOUR:  Oh, all right.  Now, Mr Baker, the trial will be preceding.  There is one matter that does need to be attended to.  The principal witness for the Crown in this trial is a person who has the status of a

DEFENDANT:  I don’t even know what you’re fucking talking about, mate.  You’re talking but not in the lingo language.

HIS HONOUR:  The complainant in respect of the count of attempted murder is a person who

DEFENDANT:  Who are you fucking talking about?

HIS HONOUR:       is a

DEFENDANT:  Stop talking in riddles.

HIS HONOUR:       is a protected witness under the Evidence Act and for the purposes of the trial, you will not be

DEFENDANT:  I don’t know what you’re talking about

HIS HONOUR:  Well

DEFENDANT:  I don’t know – look, I don’t know what you’re talking about, mate.

HIS HONOUR:  Well, if you – if you stop shouting at me and listen to what I’m saying you might start to understand.

DEFENDANT:  No, I can’t

HIS HONOUR:  The

DEFENDANT:       understand you.

HIS HONOUR:  The person, Margaret Ravez, is a protected witness.

DEFENDANT:  So what do you want me to fucking do?

HIS HONOUR:  What I want you to do is stop swearing at me and listen to me.

DEFENDANT:  I’m not going to fucking stop swearing at you.

HIS HONOUR:  All right then, it’s a matter for you.

DEFENDANT:  You can stick your fucking trial up your arse.

HIS HONOUR:  Well, that won’t be happening to me, Mr

DEFENDANT:  I couldn’t give a shit.

HIS HONOUR:  No.

DEFENDANT:  I couldn’t give a shit, mate.

HIS HONOUR:  Well that’s a matter for you.  Now

DEFENDANT:  Well you can start your trial and stick it up your arse ’cause I – I’m not having anything to do with it.

HIS HONOUR:  Sit down.

DEFENDANT:  No, you get

HIS HONOUR:  Sit.

DEFENDANT:       fucked.

HIS HONOUR:  Sit down.

DEFENDANT:  Go and get fucked.

HIS HONOUR:  Sit down, please.

DEFENDANT:  I’m not fucking doing what you say.  Up you.

HIS HONOUR:  Sit down.

DEFENDANT:  You’re not going to fucking tell me I’m going to be representing meself at all.  I need legal aid.  I need representation and not you and – or any other fucking arseholes gonna tell me anything different.

HIS HONOUR:  Sit down, please.

DEFENDANT:  No, get stuffed.

HIS HONOUR:  If you don’t sit down I will have you manacled.  Sit down.

DEFENDANT:  You can fucking have what you like, mate.

HIS HONOUR:  Corrective Services, could you please

DEFENDANT:  Have what you fucking like.

HIS HONOUR:       could you please restrain the accused.  Sit down.

DEFENDANT:  … Fuck you.

HIS HONOUR:  Mr Bailiff, could you ask security to attend the Court please.

DEFENDANT:  Do what you fucking like.  I got no representation so that’s it.  I’m not listening.  I don’t give a fuck who you say

HIS HONOUR:  Mr

DEFENDANT:       or what you say.

HIS HONOUR:  Mr Baker, the next people

DEFENDANT:  Am I – I don’t give a damn what you say, right?

HIS HONOUR:  Mr Baker, the next people

DEFENDANT:  I don’t give a damn what you say, right?

HIS HONOUR:  Mr Baker

DEFENDANT:  I don’t give a damn what you say.

HIS HONOUR:       the next people that you see entering the Court

DEFENDANT:  I couldn’t give a shit what you’re saying.

HIS HONOUR:       are the Court Security Staff.

DEFENDANT:  Oh, what do you want me to do?  What do you want, a Mickey Mouse badge?

HIS HONOUR:  No.

DEFENDANT:  Stick it on your fat chest.  Hey?  What do you want?  A Mickey Mouse badge.  Come on fatso, what have you got to say for that?

BAILIFF:  On their way up, your Honour.

HIS HONOUR:  Thank you, Mr Bailiff.

DEFENDANT:  Oh, the mouse has gone quiet.

HIS HONOUR:  Security, can I ask you to take up positions immediately behind the accused.  If he moves from that chair – if he makes any move from that chair you are to assist the Corrective Services personnel in restraining him, do you understand?

SECURITY:  Yes, your Honour.

HIS HONOUR:  Thank you.  You are not to move, do you understand me?  Mr Baker?

DEFENDANT:  Oh get fucked.

HIS HONOUR:  Mr Baker, because Margaret Revesz

DEFENDANT:  No, listen here, lard arse – no fuck you.

HIS HONOUR:  Because Margaret Revesz

DEFENDANT:  I don’t give a shit what you fuckin’ say

HIS HONOUR:       is a protected witness

DEFENDANT:       I’m telling you now you can get fucked.  All right?

HIS HONOUR:       the law requires

DEFENDANT:  Are you so stupid or what?  I don’t give a shit what you fuckin’ say.

HIS HONOUR:       that I arrange for Ms Revesz – for you rather, to be given free legal assistance by Legal Aid

DEFENDANT:  I don’t give a fuck.  I couldn’t give a shit what you say.  What, are you deaf?

HIS HONOUR:       for the cross-examination of that protected – for the cross-examination of that protected witness

DEFENDANT:  Hey, lard arse, can’t you fuckin’ hear me?

HIS HONOUR:       unless you arrange for legal representation

DEFENDANT:  What, are you deaf?

HIS HONOUR:       or unless you do not want that protected witness to be cross-examined.

DEFENDANT:  What are you fuckin’ talking about, I don’t know what you’re fuckin’ talking about, lard arse.

HIS HONOUR:  Is there anything that you want to say in relation to me making an order

DEFENDANT:  Yeah, I don’t know what you’re fuckin’ talking about, you silly old cunt.

HIS HONOUR:  In which case – thank you for that submission.  In which case

DEFENDANT:  Oh that’s good, you know.

HIS HONOUR:       I order – I rule

DEFENDANT:  Well, you can fuckin’ order what you like.

HIS HONOUR:       that Margaret Revesz

DEFENDANT:  Order me a fuckin’ pizza while you’re at it.

HIS HONOUR:       is a protected witness for this proceeding

DEFENDANT:  Who gives a shit.

HIS HONOUR:  Mr Kinsella, could you please communicate the fact that that order has been made to Legal Aid.

DEFENDANT:  Are you fuckin’ off your head?

MR KINSELLA:  Yes, I will, thank you, your Honour.

HIS HONOUR:  And immediately arrange for such representation as may be necessary.

MR KINSELLA:  Thank you, your Honour.

HIS HONOUR:  Thank you very much.

DEFENDANT:  Why don’t you get fucked?

HIS HONOUR:  Now Mr

DEFENDANT:  Wait, what are these two fuckheads doing here then if they’re not fuckin’ representing me?

HIS HONOUR:  Mr MacKenzie, do you and your instructing solicitor now seek leave to withdraw?

MR MacKENZIE:  Yes, your Honour.

HIS HONOUR:  All right then.  I give you leave to withdraw.  Thank you both very much for your assistance.

DEFENDANT:  Yeah, piss off.  Fuckin’ dogs.HIS HONOUR:  Mr Kinsella?

MR KINSELLA:  Your Honour, Mr MacKenzie has been kind enough just to mention to me that as he understands it, any order needs to be reduced to writing and then faxed, so what I’ll do is I’ll get that order reduced to writing.

HIS HONOUR:  If you could email it to my associate and I’ll initial it

MR KINSELLA:  Yes.

HIS HONOUR:       and that can be attended to.

MR KINSELLA:  Thank you, your Honour.

HIS HONOUR:  All right now.  You’re in a position to proceed, Mr Kinsella?

MR KINSELLA:  That would be the case, yes, your Honour.

HIS HONOUR:  All right then.  Well, we should then find out from Legal Aid, I take it the complainant is to be your first witness?

MR KINSELLA:  She is, yes, your Honour.

HIS HONOUR:  All right then.  And how long do you think your opening will take?

MR KINSELLA:  Oh the opening

HIS HONOUR:  Once we’ve empanelled the jury?

MR KINSELLA:  About 15 or 20 minutes, I would think.

HIS HONOUR:  All right then.  Well, is there any point in empanelling the jury today if your opening is going to be brief

DEFENDANT:  What’s this fuckin’ opening brief and that you’re talking about, lard arse?

HIS HONOUR:  If your opening is going to be that short then you’ll want to call the complainant pretty well straight away.

MR KINSELLA:  That’s so, yes.  I would submit the most prudent course is perhaps to allow the panel to go and then look to empanelling them tomorrow.

HIS HONOUR:  Yes, all right then.  Now, Mr Baker, you can continue to interrupt me or you can listen to what I’m going to say.

DEFENDANT:  I don’t give a fuck, I need representation.

HIS HONOUR:  No, we’re beyond that stage.

DEFENDANT:  No, hey, listen here you fuckin’ stupid old cunt, I’ve got fuckin’ paperwork here, if you weren’t so pigheaded and using your big fuckin’ fat lard arse, you might have fuckin’ read it before you fuckin’ jumped the gun, eh, but no, you had your fuckin’ cocking mates here going on like a two bob fuckin’ watch.  I never said anything about fuckin’ Don MacKenzie.  I had a complaint against Ken fuckin’ MacKenzie, right, not me barrister.  I had nothing to complain about him, it was the other fuckin’ prick and I wrote you a letter to fuckin’ explain why.

HIS HONOUR:  Was there anything else you wanted to say to me at the moment?

DEFENDANT:  Yeah, why don’t you fuckin’ read it and see why I wanted to – what was it – blimmin’ to adjourn for a while.

HIS HONOUR:  No

DEFENDANT:  There was a fuckin’ reason for it.

HIS HONOUR:  No, there’s no adjournments, Mr Baker, you’ve had

DEFENDANT:  Well, I don’t give a stuff.  You can’t fuckin’ sentence me or do anything because I’m doing a plea.  The thing was when I got my plea overturned last fuckin’ time, did you read it, why – what happened, was because the barrister and solicitor stuffed up.  I was putting in a complaint about Don MacKenzie – Ken MacKenzie not revealing the parts I needed for my trial, but you wouldn’t listen.

HIS HONOUR:  Mmm.  Thank you for that information.  Now what’s going to happen is this

DEFENDANT:  I don’t give a shit what happens, anyone comes in here, I’ll fuckin’ disturb and I’ll run amok.

HIS HONOUR:  Not in my courtroom you won’t.

DEFENDANT:  m, I’ll fuckin’ disturb and I’ll run amok.

HIS HONOUR:  Not in my courtroom you won’t.

DEFENDANT:  Hey, don’t fuckin’ tell me I fuckin’ won’t, mate.

HIS HONOUR:  Not in my courtroom you won’t.

DEFENDANT:  You think these fuckin’ jokers are going to worry me?

HIS HONOUR:  Whether they worry you or not

DEFENDANT:  Or the screws, what are you going to fuckin’ do?

HIS HONOUR:  Whether they worry you or not is a matter for you.

DEFENDANT:  What are you going to fuckin’ do to me.

HIS HONOUR:  What I’m going to do to you is tell you that your trial is starting tomorrow.

DEFENDANT:  Oh no fuckin’ way, mate.

HIS HONOUR:  Oh yes, your trial is starting tomorrow.

DEFENDANT:  You want a fuckin’ bet?  You want a fuckin’ bet?

HIS HONOUR:  Well

DEFENDANT:  I’ll tell you what, I’ll make a fuckin’ bet – I’ll make a bet with you and I tell you what, you’ll lose your fuckin’ fat arse.

HIS HONOUR:  Now, Mr Kinsella, you’ll be ready for the trial to start tomorrow?

DEFENDANT:  I’ll put myself in medical, you cunt.

MR KINSELLA:  Thank you, your Honour, yes.

DEFENDANT:  I’ll fuckin’ slash up or I’ll do something.

MR KINSELLA:  Yes, thank you, your Honour.

HIS HONOUR:  Yes.

DEFENDANT:  You don’t fuckin’ threaten me you fuckin’ dog.

HIS HONOUR:  You can take the accused down, thank you.  I’ll see you tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock, thank you, Mr Baker?

DEFENDANT:  No, I fuckin’ won’t, I’ll tell you fuckin’ now, you fuckin’ lard arse.

HIS HONOUR:  Thank you for coming up, gentlemen, I’m grateful.  I was actually called much worse things on the rugby paddock, you know.  All right then.  Mr Bailiff, if you could please let the jury panel know that they’ll be required tomorrow morning.

Kudos to His Honor (Judge Martin Daubney) for displaying great aplomb while under hostile fire. Kudos of a different sort to the defendant, for his virtuoso performance. And kudos, finally, to the court reporter, who seems to have done an excellent job despite the many violations of the convention of turn-taking in conversation.

A note on the provenance of the transcript. I received the transcript, in Word format, as an attachment to an email forwarded to me (and about 20 other people) by a friend of mine. Under these circumstances, one might reasonably entertain doubts about the degree to which the transcript was grounded in reality. Indeed, the body of my friend’s message said, in its entirety, “unreal!!!” But investigation has confirmed that what you’ve read above did happen:

David Allan Baker faces contempt charge after unleashing tirade including 93 swear words and a pizza order on Supreme Court judge Martin Daubney

Foul-mouth jailed for attempted murder

And for those of you who are wondering what happened at the first trial:

Man who twice stabbed ex in the heart denies he meant to kill her

‘I’ll run amok. I will’: Court antics abort attempted murder trial

One response to ““Thank you for that submission.”

  1. Barbara H Partee

    I like the keyword “Maxim of cooperation: disregard of”. Understatement of the day!

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