A Grain of Truth
As Nicholas Hasluck’s latest novel points out more than once, the adversarial system of judgement upon which this country’s law is based consists of the telling and re-telling of stories. The prosecution presents a version of events, the defence uses the same facts but tells a different story and, in summing up, the judge constructs a third one. Finally the jury is empowered by society to decide the ‘truth’. Counsel for the prosecution and for the defence are obliged to argue their respective points of view to the limit of their professional ability. The most effective way of doing this, as one of Hasluck’s characters points out, involves ‘subverting rational argument – constantly interrupting, confusing witnesses with nit-picking questions, blocking the presentation of crucial facts, shaping the truth to suit his client’s case’.