November 11, 2011 @ 11:02
“The best weapon against an enemy is another enemy.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche.
I can record truthfully that I never like staring at defendants in court. I remember a perfectly lovely character at the Bar, glorying in the name of Marmaduke Rapp-Pitney, who was incredibly short sighted and wore a rather terrifying pair of spectacles, which contained glass so thick and spiralled that it almost hid his eyes. When a defendant was brought up, Marmie would turn round and simply stare at the poor alleged miscreant. All, except the most brazen, flinched. Some changed their plea.
However, when I turned up to the Central Criminal Court for a further case management hearing in the case of Jason Grimble, alleged murderer of former and unloved member of Gutteridge Chambers, Judge Claude Allerick, I broke my rule. This was not to look at the fay Grimble himself, but because, for the first time, he was joined in the dock by another. He now had a co-defendant, Moses Lane, who had joined this happy gathering because Jason had shopped him in his Defence Case Statement.
So, I turned and looked. Moses is a surprisingly cheerful looking lad, with rather comical ears. He also looks an unlikely killer. I suppressed a gust of pity: he was the enemy, after all, and the enemy with whom I proposed to dish the principal assailant, the Crown - represented today by Gordon Hardwicke; suave and learned Treasury Counsel. The only thing that could safely be said was that he was very unlikely to be prosecuting the case on the day. Moses had Rico Smyth QC, another alumnus of Gutteridge, who had left our Chambers in a blaze of flash car to pursue more lucrative work. The only thing that could be safely said about him was that he would be with us to the bitter end, large as life and slippery as an eel. I could expect no quarter.
I looked at the Bench, expecting to see one of the usual cadre of senior circuit judges: civilised of manner, suffused with deep experience and deadly of purpose. Instead, there was a stranger…or, to be precise, an old acquaintance – His Honour Judge Arlington. I concluded he must be up from the Western Circuit on a working holiday whilst his wife did the Christmas shopping in well-known Knightsbridge stores. Francis Arlington and I had briefly crossed swords when we were both juniors, when I found myself in Exeter defending a rather hopeless con-man who had graduated from trading standards’ irregularities to minor fraud. Arlington had persecuted this silly case in the guise of a Devonian Torquemada; absent any humour and full of nascent ambition.
He was gripping some large publication. I thought for a moment he was flicking through a brochure, rather like the one that was in my own bag, which had hundreds of useful presents for people who appear already to have everything. My favourite is a key-ring that bleeps when you whistle it, however deep the pocket or sofa in which it has become temporarily lost.
Closer scrutiny revealed it was a much less attractive work: the Criminal Procedure Rules. I have no doubt it was Francis Arlington’s bedtime reading.
“I note, gentlemen, that none of you have completed the length of time for which you will require each witness both in chief and in cross-examination.” There was a silence. Doubtless he was correct, but it was not the sort of nonsensical thing that was generally mentioned here. It rather depends on how the witness decides to answer you, I always think. Continued silence seemed the safer course. Rico Smythe, however, could never resist rushing in where angels fear to tread.
“We were waiting for your Lordship to complete the section telling us how long the summing-up was going to take and the estimated retirement time of the jury.”
Arlington smiled in a way that rivalled Medusa. “I doubt that even you could be that foolish, Mr Smythe. However, I shall choose to view that potentially impertinent remark as ill-judged humour.”
After we had been dragged through a multitude of other questions to which we had not provided answers - we were all without our juniors - Arlington rose with glacial displeasure, having fixed a date for trial in the early summer. “Thank heaven we’ll be deprived of the pleasure of His Iceberg’s presence at trial,” I commented. Hardwicke looked across at me with amused apology: “I fear not,” he said. “He’s permanent and the designated trial judge. Sadly, I may have to return these instructions. Spot of terrorism that requires my services.” I hope I hid the envious look successfully, before exiting to face Jason’s dreaded battle-axe of a mother.
William Byfield is the pseudonym of a senior member of the Bar. Gutteridge Chambers, and the events that happen there, are entirely fictitious.