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Memories – of the way things used to be, misty something, something memories….

Memories – of the way things used to be, misty something, something memories….

I recently read the memoirs of an older solicitor and of his days in the criminal courts, when both lawyers and clients alike had a more robust approach to the law.  It took me back to those heady, fun-filled days when I used to tread those boards myself.  Ahhh…those were the days, the cut and thrust of skilled legal argument, cutting your teeth on meaty evidence, the sharpening of forensic analysis, the gratitude of clients who had been wronged by the system and the hearty banter with colleagues and the bench both before and during the case.  Then again…the long, dreary wait for the no-hope cases, the tedium of  having to wait your turn, the no-mark clients   who couldn’t care less about all the effort you put in…

All the same the work threw up moments of comedy and provided some unique quirky repertoire when the family were sat around the Sunday lunch table.  “Had any interesting cases lately?” my father would ask, particularly if we had guests.  I was amazed by my family’s capacity to hear yet again, the story of the chap who couldn’t understand how the police could regard his sword as a dangerous weapon when it was blatantly obvious that it was a wand.  Then there was the intrepid “Twocer” (or joy-rider as we are no longer able to call it.)  On seeing the police coming to arrest him, snuck around the back and made off in the car that they had arrived in.  When asked in interview why he had taken it he replied “ ‘Cos I liked the blue flashing lights” .  Oh yes, the blue flashing lights that made his get-away sooo inconspicuous.Comedy Courtroom

It was in Court though that the classiest moments of comedy took place.  The memoirs I referred to above came from the days when courts did not have ready access to interpreters.  One magistrate thought to try out his German on a luckless tourist who found himself had up in front of him.  “Tronk?” asked the beak. “Ja” “Well then I’m fining you Ein Pund” .  His clerk piped up “He only has five shillings your worship” “Funf Shillings” came the retort.   Better German perhaps than the lawyer in another case who agreed to help the bench translate for a German tourist found in a similar dilemma.  Having assured the Court of his translating skills, he then surprised them with his use of it – “Voss you drunk?”

Judge with monocle

I recall the case of the young man who was unrepresented and who had pleaded guilty.  As is usual the prosecution went first and laid before the bench an eloquent and scorching condemnation of the man’s more colourful criminal history.  The Clerk then explained to him that it was his turn.  “Is there anything you would now like to say?”  Like a rabbit caught in the head-lights his only response was “Beam me up Scotty?”

It is however with the Court that I leave it.  I recall sat waiting for my case in Crown Court when one of the more experienced, time-served Judges was being presented by a fraudster’s mitigation.  The con-man had apparently found God and wanted the Judge to know it.  Not only content with piling on letter after letter of character references to his new-found born-again status, he had the local vicar give evidence as a character witness.  The Judge looked to me as though he was just managing his patience.  After hearing the evidence and with a sigh of relief, he began his sentencing comments.  But oh no – the Defendant had more to say.  He stopped the Judge to read out his prepared letter, affirming his allegiance to God and all His works.  I could see the Judge looking less than impressed.  With steely eyes, he asked if the Defendant was now finished.  “Yes”  “Good, because I’m not God, I’m a Crown Court Judge and you’re going down.”  He might have said “you’re going to prison” but hey, this is an anecdote and I’m using a bit of literary licence.

Do I miss those days?  Yeh, a teeny bit.  Would I go back?  Oh no.  I suspect that those big, glorious characters have gone.  And with the passing of Scotty and Star Trek as we knew it, so have the makings of Sunday lunch repartee.