Secret E-Diary - December 2012

Chambers’ security arrangements come under scrutiny

November 12, 2012: “James Bond: The writing is on the wall. Q: Along with the rest of him.” Ian Fleming

After the magic of Henrietta Briar-Pitt’s wedding to Ernst Pennington, we have now all been brought back to earth by autumn rain and the start of the new legal year with even less work at even worse rates. All we have to look forward to is quality assessment where some old judge will extract his revenge for some ancient perceived slight in a Siberian robing room by marking you down as fit only to defend guilty shoplifters. I cannot work because Mrs Ernst Pennington (nee Briar-Pitt) has departed to the French Riviera on her honeymoon and some unknown person has locked away all the files pertaining to the case of R. v. Grimble, my next major outing in the Criminal Division.


I doubt if I have mentioned locked rooms, encrypted data and enhanced security techniques in this electronic diary before. In fact, I should not be keeping any kind of diary at all. Our General Management Committee has been revamped recently and is now run by the brothers Twist, who have turned it into something like the Committee of Public Safety during the French Revolution.

I learnt from Andrew, our Senior Clerk, that we were to be paid a visit by some Spooks’ Department to check on our security arrangements. These have in the past consisted in trying to get members to switch out the lights when they leave for the night, attempting to persuade them not to leave the front door wide open, making dire threats about the theft of library books and labelling the pupils’ food in the refrigerator to stop the Silks pinching it at lunchtime. This will no longer do apparently. Despite the fact that no-one in Chambers has ever lost vast quantities of confidential and highly sensitive data, it is, as usual, self-employed barristers who are being made the sacrificial victims. Apparently, some pervert on an underground train looked over the shoulder of one of our junior tenants who was having a quick read of some salacious witness statement on his way to a quick “Not Before 2” at Snaresbrook. Doubtless consumed by guilt, the nosey traveller then reported the matter anonymously to the police, having read counsel’s name on the front of the Brief.

I must say the two unnamed security advisers who visited Chambers looked a touch unlikely. One was a man around thirty in a shiny grey suit with quite the worst outbreak of post-adolescent acne I have ever seen; the other was a rather giggly girl in a red anorak who sported enormous spectacles and seemed rather more taken with the dubious charms of Ronnie, our junior clerk, than the mission to report our failings back to “M”.

As I said to the GMC, when I was rather unceremoniously hauled before it to “explain” Chambers’ security arrangements, it was all slightly unfortunate. The clerks assured me afterwards that the case with the rather lurid pre-Sentence report should not have been placed in the entrance hall for collection at all, and, even if it had been there for a couple of minutes, it should not have been placed close to the front door and subject to draughts of air every time someone came or left. Finally, as Andrew put it, if, by accident (but for Health and Safety reasons - the van driver collecting it has a bad back) it was placed for a couple of seconds by the front door and exposed to gusts of wind it was the tenant’s fault for leaving the Report on the top and unsecured where it had blown half-way across the hall floor and was picked up by Mr Pimple and Miss Geek.

Paddy Corkhill said that the topless blonde he has as a screensaver on his laptop was a joke picture and that the explanation for his machine being unencrypted was that someone had told him you had to remember the thirty digit code without which you could never access your computer again; and he feared that after a night out at a local wine-bar he might have been unable to do so. I was distracted by trying to shoo Ronnie back to the clerks’ room. He and Miss Geek were giggling away to such an extent that I felt it was detracting from these important explanations.

I think this is how I forgot that I had left the post-mortem pictures of the late Claude Allerick’s digestive organs open on my desk next to a half-eaten tuna and cucumber sandwich.

Hence, all papers in R. v. Grimble have disappeared under lock and key – possibly for ever…

William Byfield is the pseudonym of a senior member of the Bar. Gutteridge Chambers, and the events that happen there, are entirely fictitious.