Category Archives: Reminiscences and Musings

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged…

This blog post has been triggered by my happening to have seen a couple of minor news items while idly browsing the Internet. The first reported that my old head of chambers –shall we call him M.B.?– from when I practised as a barrister in Exeter (2002-2007), has been elevated to the Bench as a Circuit Judge and is now styled His Honour M.B.

The other news item was that the old (dating from 1905) Tower Bridge Magistrates’ Court and police station have been turned into “a luxury boutique hotel”. Sign of the times.

These reports have led me to muse on some of my own experiences with the judicial classes.

M.B. will probably make an effective judge. An erudite civil lawyer, I met him when I decided to stop being an employed lawyer (a situation I was in, intermittently, from 1996 through to 2002) and re-start Bar practice in England. I had been living and/or working overseas for much of those six or seven years, and in London, where at one time I was the leaseholder of property in Gray’s Inn; I lived at that time at Higher Denham, Buckinghamshire, from where I travelled in by rail from Denham Golf Club halt to Marylebone).

I was in Kazakhstan for a year (1996-97) and after that also lived in or made shorter visits to a number of other countries: Egypt (where I lived for a while in Aswan, on a remote Red Sea beach under canvas, in a flat in Alexandria and in the desert oasis of Siwa); Turkey (I drove UK-Turkey-UK in 2001, which was quite an adventure at times: France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, a 4-month trip); the USA (based in Charleston, South Carolina, but I also stayed for a while in Tampa, Florida); Qatar; Liechtenstein; the Channel Islands, the Eastern Caribbean (several islands); the Cayman Islands, Minorca, Czech Republic, Northern Cyprus etc.

I remember one member of my future chambers remarking at my interview that my CV read in parts like that of James Bond. I had to point out that any resemblance between me and James Bond was purely co-incidental and very implausible (and not only because I have never belonged to any secret service!). Still, I joined that set and in general found it OK, though at first it (and so I) had very little work. I had taken on the lease of one of the largest country houses in North Cornwall and liked the relaxed lifestyle of the Cornwall/Devon upstream Tamar River area.

As to M.B., not long after I joined the set, M.B. and I won a multi-day action in contract and trust together (though appearing for different people) at Plymouth County Court. After that, we did appear on opposite sides a couple of times during my 5 years in chambers, but he lost out despite being (arguably) a better advocate and (unarguably) a better lawyer than me.

I may as well add that, despite what some Jewish individuals claimed after I was disbarred in 2016 (about 8 years after I had left chambers and ceased Bar practice!), M.B. and the other fellow members of chambers (with one, possibly two exceptions: see below) did not want me to leave chambers, whether for political or any other reasons. Indeed, M.B. wanted me to stay on despite my having decided to resign.

In fact, I was commuting on a weekly or 2-weekly basis across the Channel to Finistere, where my wife and cats were living. This resulted in financial strain, in that I was only available for half the time, was paying out large amounts for ferries (return trip with car, luxury cabin too, about £300 return, every week or so…), hotels in the UK for 10-20 nights per month; also, putting the seal on it all, I was starting to have “discussions” with the Revenue (which only ended in 2012).

My only misgivings about M.B. as a judge would be that, firstly, he tends to stick with black-letter law; in my view, he is unwilling to bend the law to fit the justice of the case. Whether that is a strength or a weakness is a matter for debate. Secondly, when I decided to leave chambers, I quite liked the idea of remaining as a door tenant [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Door_tenant] and M.B. said that that would not be a problem and implied (indeed expressed, though in some other words) it would be nodded through, but that the correct form would be to resign tenancy first and then apply for door tenancy, though approval would “in my case” be automatic. However, when it came to it, a couple of new tenants (I believe) cut up rough because one was married to some kind of Indian and was very hostile to (what he assumed) were my political views; I think (guessing) that a recent ex-pupil (a humourless bespectacled woman with an invisible sign round her neck saying “Politically-Correct Virtue-Signalling Christian”) may also have blackballed me.

In the event, the door tenancy would have been a waste of time because the Revenue was on my back at a cross-Channel distance. Still, that made me think that M.B. was not necessarily reliable, a thought that had occurred previously once or twice.

Now to another judge of sorts. Tower Bridge Magistrates’ Court, long before it was (quite recently) turned into a luxury boutique hotel, was for some years often presided over by one Jacqueline “Jackie” Comyns, a notoriously despotic “stipendiary magistrate” (the rank now renamed “District Judge Criminal”). Her reputation was fearsome. I only appeared once in front of this gargoyle: I was “briefed” at 11 am to appear at 12! That was in 1993. I read the brief on the way to court. The defendant had refused to get off a defective bus and had then assaulted the conductor and gone on to smash the side window of a police car. She was pleading guilty. At court, the case came on minutes after my arrival. The magistrate interrupted my mitigation to ask some petty question about the defendant. I did not know the answer, having not had time for a brief conference. Instead of simply asking the defendant for the information, this ghastly frustrated prize bitch, sitting on her seat of petty power, told me venomously that Counsel had to be properly prepared when appearing in her court, and told me to go ask the defendant! I did, the pitying or amused eyes of dozens of police, court staff, members of the public on me as I traversed the unusually large courtroom and extracted the information.

I was told that that magistrate was going to be elevated to the Circuit bench in Essex, but that turned out to be wrong, because I see from the Internet that she was still dispensing justice from Thames Mags (on the other side of the river) as recently as 2013, the year that she retired (aged 70).

The problem of “judge-itis” (the tendency to be a despot sitting on the pedestal of power) is worse, usually, the further down the pecking order you go. It is rarely found in the higher courts. At one time (1993-1995) I appeared on a frequent basis, at least once weekly, in the High Court. If I had a problem, it was never because the judge was reprising am-dram Nero or Caligula. In the County Courts, the problem is occasionally encountered. HH Judge Overend, the presiding civil judge for Devon and Cornwall until 2006, was often a horrible despot when seated, but in his case his bullying manner (and apparent tendency to make up his mind before you had finished —or even started– speaking) was mitigated by fairness and compassion for those suffering (so long as they were not Counsel!). The barristers of the South West used to describe bruising encounters with him as one having been “Overended”…I have to say that on the odd occasion when he saw me outside court, he did always nod affably and even briefly smiled at times.

The magistrates’ courts are often the zoos where the wildest judicial animals roam their constricted territories. I once saw a stipendiary magistrate in London refuse bail to a defendant who was in court on a stretcher and on a drip !

Other judges have the opposite tendency, a pretty fatal one for a judge, a difficulty in deciding anything, especially if it would involve penalizing (eg imprisoning) those who break court orders. Judges whose Bar practice was entirely in civil work tend to fall victim to this; at least, that was my experience.

I have to say that I only found a few judges who were completely impossible. One was not a judge proper, i.e. the lady who presided over Tower Bridge Mags; the other was one whose name escapes me now, but who sat at Uxbridge County Court 25 years ago. His connection with justice was, as far as I could see, purely formal. The many others, particularly on the High Court bench, might not always have seen eye to eye with me on the law or facts, but were almost always courteous in manner and impressive in their grasp.

 

 

Advertisements

Paid Bar Pupillages

There is, currently, discussion yet again at the Bar of England and Wales about whether all sets of chambers should “tax” their members in order to pay pupils (i.e. trainee barristers) a certain minimum during their year of pupillage. The figure mooted has been put by some at £25,000; others put it at £12,000, i.e. about where the present legal “minimum wage” is set. Not all barristers agree. I saw a contrary-leaning article by Jew-Zionist silk Simon Myerson QC. I expect that this is the only issue on which I would ever agree with him (I attach his views at the bottom of this blog post).

I understand that chambers are currently not forced to have pupils, but if they have them they must be paid £12,000 p.a. Apologies if that misrepresents the current position; I have little contact now with affairs at the Bar.

Many who know me or of me may wonder why I am bothering to write about this. After all, I ceased Bar practice in 2008, and was actually disbarred –for political reasons– in 2016, after a pack of malicious Jews cobbled together a complaint to the Bar Standards Board about my socio-political tweets. My answer to such a query would be that I have a view and the time in which to express it. Simply that. I can revisit Memory Lane, too.

The idea that all chambers must fund at least one pupil has superficial appeal to many. Poorer people of merit would be assisted etc. The problem with that is that most young (as most are) Bar pupils are not very poor anyway, and many come from families with considerable incomes and capital. In short, from affluent families. No-one forces chambers to take poor pupils rather than rich ones. In other words, chambers might be forced to pay for pupils who do not even need the money.

When I myself was looking for pupillage in the late 1980s and then early 1990s (interrupted by my going to live in the USA and travelling back and forth in those years), I had handicaps: apart from lack of money, I was, having been born in 1956, about a decade older than most candidates, and (worse) until late 1988 had a beard. That last might seem a small matter, but at least two barristers who interviewed me mentioned it…

I found that, at that time, the Bar was even less well-run than most things in the UK. We (students at the Inns of Court School of Law, at the time the only place where the Bar Finals course was offered) were told by some stuffy blue-stocking administratrix that we should write our applications by hand and preferably in ink, using a fountain pen (though CVs could be typed)! By some miracle, quill pens and parchment had been superseded. Well, I laboured to write maybe a hundred applications (though not with a fountain pen). Most went unanswered. Imagine that… that a letter written in good faith on a quite usual subject (after all, it happens at least annually that people apply to such places) will simply be ignored. Arrogant. Rude.

Of the interviews I had, a few stand out: there was one at a posh commercial set, in which interview I was interviewed by one Christian du Cann and some young woman who was obviously very junior. Du Cann was the son of perhaps the best Bar advocate I ever heard, Richard du Cann QC, who wrote one of the best books on the subject, The Art of the Advocate (highly recommended, by the way, if any Bar students are reading this). Du Cann junior was OK, even pleasant, but the young woman was unpleasant, scornful, contemptuous. Huge chip on shoulder from somewhere. I think that she felt inferior, so abused her half hour of power. Fortunately for her, I have forgotten her name.

Then there was the interview elsewhere, which obviously was not going very well, though in a low-intensity way. One barrister saw me out and made two suggestions: one, never shake hands with another barrister; two, beards are usually unacceptable.

Another interview that was (perhaps on purpose, to put one on one’s mettle) very hostile was with three then fairly well-known people, often in the newspapers: Michael Worsley QC [https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/12118332/Michael-Worsley-barrister-obituary.html], who died in 2016; Roy Amlot (later QC) who was often seen prosecuting IRA bombers etc (and, later, defending in huge fraud trials such as Blue Arrow), now 75 and retired from the Bar; a blonde woman smoking like a chimney (I cannot quite recall after more than a quarter-century whether that was Joanna Korner, now QC and a judge, or Ann Curnow QC, now deceased; I think the latter). All in a room got up to look like a cross between a country sitting-room and a study: panelling, soft-ish lighting, leather sofa etc and a couple of desks. In summary, Worsley appeared to be a stuffed shirt (very different from the figure portrayed in the Daily Telegraph obit), Amlot a funereally-serious and hugely self-important little man, and the blonde woman someone whose interview style seemed to rely on ill-bred mockery.

I did have one interview which was almost Kafka-esque. At that time, my mother and brother were both Members at Ascot (my brother also owned a racehorse at the time). One frequently-encountered fellow-member was a woman whose son happened to be a head of chambers in the Temple. The two ladies arranged an interview for me. I was loath to go for interview under such conditions, but went out of politeness.

In those pre-Internet days, it was not always easy to find out what a particular set did in detail. I went thinking that it was a general Common Law set. On my arrival, on a Friday early evening, about 1800, the members were all enjoying glasses of champagne; bottles of Bollinger were everywhere. I was given a glass. Turned out that they did this every Friday at sundown. The head of chambers, obviously talking to me because his mother had asked him to do so, was not very pleasant and asked me what I knew of family law. I replied not much, never having studied it. He said “We only do family…” End of “interview”.

In the end, I went back to the USA, though I did get a pupillage in London in the end, in 1992, unfunded and making the first six months (when you are forbidden to accept fees) a trial of strength.

In my last few years at the practising Bar, I was based in Exeter. The head of those chambers decided that we should take pupils and (a year or two later) also fund them. At least one per year. Everyone would be “taxed” for this. I think that my share was about £50 a month, something like that. I thought that absurd. Those funded were not in real need of money (as I had been when a pupil) and I saw no need for us to have pupils in chambers anyway. I was there to make a living, not to provide the English middle classes with career or CV opportunities. My Head of Chambers disagreed though. He no doubt wanted to keep in with the the Bar Council etc, and I note that he has since then (in recent years) sat as a Recorder in civil cases.

Thus it is that, for once, I find myself in agreement with Myerson QC, whose view is linked hereinbelow:

https://www.legalcheek.com/2012/02/simon-myerson-qc-12k-minimum-pupillage-award-is-fair/

 

Call No Man Happy Until He is Dead

It is generally believed that the saying “call no man happy until he is dead”, attributed to Herodotus [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herodotus], was originally uttered by Solon [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solon]. Perhaps. Many believe that the saying dates back only to the 19th Century. At any rate, the saying has stood the test of time. The basis of it certainly has.

How often have we seen the spectacle of the “famous”, the wealthy, the “happy” or those we perhaps imagine should be happy, brought crashing down, often to obscurity as well as ruination? It was ruminating on this that caused me to write today. Some may think (assuming much, as many do) that I am thinking of myself, once a barrister, once living in (at various times) a Little Venice house, a penthouse apartment, a Caribbean villa, a large English country house with 26 bedrooms, but now cast down and living in extremely reduced circumstances, on a limited income etc and having to give thought to what things cost and so on.

I am sorry to disappoint those who hate me (usually without reason). My life has been one of considerable ups and downs, particularly financial. Every one of my luxurious habitations was supported, as by bookends, by relative and occasionally absolute poverty at each end. Such irregularity fosters a philosophical and perhaps stoical and/or fatalistic attitude missing in those who, having always known wealth and entitlement (or who achieved the same from humble origins) find their lives as well as livelihoods swept away by Fate. These are those who jump off buildings, massacre their families before shooting themselves etc. People with my attitude just think “tomorrow is another day”.

If even my thoughts and feelings are not truly me, in the Egoic sense, if my body is not me, then how little is my bank balance me, how little are my cars, former dwellings and (now long gone!) Rolex watches “me”? Scarcely at all; not at all.

A few examples:

  • Terry Ramsden, now completely obscure (and, presumably, broke, or maybe not: you never know with his type) but “famous” in the 1980s, and so wealthy that he could bet £500,000 each-way on his own horse at the 1986 Grand National (it came fourth; Ramsden profited by £1 million).

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2004/apr/03/horseracing.comment3

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Ramsden

  • Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, born into a wealthy family and with every possible material advantage. Judging purely from what I saw occasionally on TV, I thought her useless and brainless, but others thought quite highly of her, I am told. It was reported that she died alone, having not seen anyone for days.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tara_Palmer-Tomkinson

  • Various national leaders: Gaddafi (killed by a mob of Libyans, who first shoved a pipe up his rear end); the Shah of Iran (deposed and everything he had worked for destroyed; died in exile); Adolf Hitler (shot himself when the forces of East and West, that is to say Sovietism and finance-capitalism, burst into his capital, having battered down by air and land everything he had built); Stalin (died surrounded by sycophantic ghouls who feared and hated him; a ghastly death, dragged down by unseen forces).

I think too of others, people I have known personally. For example, in my own class and year at school, there have been a variety of outcomes (to date: that is one race still not at the finishing post).

One boy became a police officer, at least one an Army officer; a third became a helicopter pilot and later the Captain of the Queen’s Helicopter Flight and, later still, the personal pilot of King Hussein of Jordan. I suppose several became office bods, accountants etc. One unacademic but amusing fellow became a banker in Switzerland, of all things; another one, actually part-(francophone)-Swiss, became a structural engineer with his own firm in Paris. Another became, eventually, a chartered surveyor who has written a series of property-conversion manuals. Several no doubt inherited their families’ businesses. A number became BBC producers etc. Some did time in prison (all for GBH, oddly: was it something in the water?) or so I heard. In fact, that last sentence is wrong, because I did read in the Daily Telegraph about one boy (an Organ Scholar, if I recall aright, who used to play the massive school organ), who became a music teacher and (hence the interest of the Press) when in his thirties was convicted of sexually assaulting one of his piano pupils.

Life is always surprising. Who knows where my next port of call will be?

The Leadership Principle v. the Attitude of the Prima Donna

Nick Griffin

I suppose that most people reading this will have heard of Nick Griffin, formerly of the British National Party. For the benefit of those who have not, this is what Wikipedia says about him:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Griffin

I have never met Nick Griffin, I have never spoken with him. My view of him is, in a nutshell, that he did very well with the BNP to make a large part of a silk purse out of what was mostly a sow’s ear. He made the BNP at least half-credible (up to 2009). He and Andrew Brons got elected as BNP MEPs. He has courage. He has intelligence, too.

On the more doubtful side, Griffin was naive enough to think that he had been invited onto BBC Question Time because the BNP had all but broken through into the magic circle of “major parties” and was being treated as such; instead, he was ambushed and trashed in a totally planned way. All those who took part in that ambush are enemies of the people. That finished the BNP.

As to what Griffin writes, I agree with much of it and in particular with much of his recent attack on the corrupted “Alt-Right” and other [what some call] “kosher nationalists”.

Griffin has reposted one or two of my tweets (though I am now expelled from Twitter) and GAB posts. I must have retweeted or reposted a couple of dozen of his.

I think that Griffin is basically right to say that the purely political fight, in the manner of the BNP, UKIP etc in the UK (he says throughout Western Europe) is now not possible. He has a point. Encroaching State/ZOG repression, Jewish Zionist influence and control, the ever-increasing hordes (armies?) of blacks and browns in the urban areas. Still, God works in mysterious ways…

Mark Collett

I had not heard of Mark Collett until this year, or possibly, peripherally, 2017. He once worked with Nick Griffin and was tried –and re-tried– (and acquitted) with him:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Collett

I have read The Fall of Western Man, Collett’s book. I agreed with almost all of it, though I was slightly underwhelmed. I do not think that Adolf Hitler, Alfred Rosenberg or Oswald Spengler have much to worry about.

I have from time to time reposted and (prior to my expulsion) retweeted Collett’s comments online. He, however, has (as far as I know) never reposted any of mine.

Leadership

Nick Griffin led the BNP; Collett led part of the BNP (the “youth wing”) and, obviously, wants to be seen as a nationalist leadership figure generally. Both men do seem to take the view that they must cultivate a slightly aloof persona in order to achieve their purposes. I have no quarrel with that, so long as the attempt does not look silly. At present (again, as far as I know) they are both generals without troops, and the fact that they both have about 35,000 Twitter followers means almost nothing. I myself, not a leader of or even a member of any party or group, had 3,000. I wonder how many of my 3,000 Twitter followers would follow me into battle– or even to a meeting in a pub? Not too many, anyway.

My point is that a political leader must of course have the aura of leadership, of slight mystery, of slight aloofness (as ever, we look to Hitler), but that must be based on the real, not merely or only that which is the result of cultivation.

Kameradschaft

In the past year or two we have seen numerous social nationalists persecuted by Zionist Jewry. I myself was disbarred in 2016, then questioned by the police in 2017, at the instigation of connected packs of Zionist Jews. Others have to date suffered more: satirical singer-songwriter Alison Chabloz; Jez Turner of the London Forum. Turner is right now sitting in Wandsworth Prison and will not be released until Autumn.

I have seen no word of support from either Nick Griffin or Mark Collett for any one of the above-named people.

Leadership demands fealty and loyalty: the leader demands both fealty and loyalty from his troops. However, loyalty works both ways. The leader must give more than he receives. Those who would be first must be the servant of all. The duty of those who would lead social nationalism is to support all social nationalists who remain true.

Afterword

In the short time (about 5 hours) since the above was published, I have been made aware that in fact both Mark Collett and Nick Griffin have expressed support (on Twitter and GAB) on at least two occasions for Alison Chabloz, though not (as far as I know, to date) for Jez Turner. Anyone knowing differently is welcome to comment in the Comments section below.

A Day Out in Cambridge

Introduction

This is another vignette from my time at the Bar, specifically from my first six months (of a year, split up into two segments, in 1992 and 1993, with six months sojourn in New Jersey and New York in between) as a Bar pupil, which is a trainee barrister. I have, in a previous blog post, introduced the slightly comical figure of “the pupilmaster”, the anxious little Mauritian Indian barrister who was supposedly supervising me (we were the same age, 35). This account tells the tale of our day out in the university town of Cambridge.

Town and Gown

I had been to Cambridge a couple of times before. The first time was when I was about 25, with my then girlfriend. She was 32, a graduate of Cambridge University, and had contemporaries who were establishing themselves in academia and elsewhere. We stayed for a day or so with a couple who still lived in Cambridge; one of that couple was having his PhD thesis published as a book, and worked at the famous Scott Polar Research Institute.

My second visit to Cambridge, a decade later, was again University-connected, this time invited, by a friend at the Bar doing a Master’s degree, to Queen’s College, to the annual dinner of something called the E Society, a society which existed only to give its annual dinner; a club reminiscent of that written about by G.K. Chesterton in The Queer Feet [http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/QueeStep920.shtml].

That dinner took place in the richly-panelled rooms of the Dean of the College, a pleasant though cunning-seeming host and fellow (or should that be Fellow?), who later became briefly famous in the tabloid Press for two things: firstly, fulminating against “guests” of undergraduates (i.e. girlfriends/boyfriends) staying overnight in College; secondly, having a young woman actually living with him! (I believe that, by tradition, his office was reserved for bachelors living alone). The dinner was for about a dozen and was black-tie.

I also remember the dinner for other reasons: the Wagnerian-themed menu (“Valkyries on Horseback” etc); also the administrative slip when my “vegetarian request” (put in by the person who had invited me) turned out to have been lost in action. I was then ceremoniously served by the butler with a couple of poached eggs on toast! OK for me, but a hard-core veggie or vegan would have had a fit. I also recall the shock with which a fellow guest received my account of a TV programme I had seen about Filipino “psychic surgeons”. Turned out that he was the Something-or-Other Professor of Cardiac Surgery (and was unamused)!

Cambridge Crown Court

I saw Cambridge Crown Court on TV news recently. A horrible building which might be described as “public loo meets nuclear bunker” (with a nod to the Guggenheim in New York, in my opinion Frank Lloyd Wright’s least-successful conception).

https://courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk/courts/cambridge-crown-court

However, in 1992 Cambridge Crown Court was still held in the ancient-seeming Guildhall (in fact built only in 1939).

It soon became clear that Cambridge was a little behind London in attitude. In London, when someone on bail “surrendered to custody” on day of trial, the “surrender” was nominal: he checked in with the Usher and his name was ticked off a list. In Cambridge, the defendant checked in and, despite having been on bail for months, was shoved into a cell! So it was that pupilmaster and I, having robed, found ourselves witness to an argument between two court guards and our defendant, who had arrived not long beforehand and had been roughly pushed into a cell with an injunction to “get your arse in there”… Having pacified the ongoing argument, we settled down (well, stood there– no furniture) to hear the defendant’s story already read in the brief.

According to the defendant (who was of “gypsy”, i.e. Irish tinker or, in today’s politically-correct terminology, “traveller” origin), he had been invited to travel with his friend (co-defendant) to Cambridge, far from their homes in Shepherd’s Bush, West London, in order to see a used car which the friend wanted to buy. While walking in the centre of Cambridge, he encountered a person described by him as “a hippy”, who had offered him a cigarette. Well, that cigarette “must have been drugs”, said the defendant, because when he regained consciousness he was in the back of a car which was being chased by a police car. He had been unable to understand why the police car, blue lights flashing and sirens sounding, was trying to chase the car in which he was now a passenger. The chase ended and, despite his having tried to explain himself, he had been arrested. Unlikely that he had ever read Kafka’s The Trial, but his surprise echoed that of Josef K.

The police account, which formed the case for the prosecution, was different. In their view, a car had been stolen by the co-defendant and defendant, had been sighted and chased and our defendant had exited the car on a bend and rolled under a parked car. His attempt to hide had been brought to a swift conclusion by a police dog.

This depressing and hopeless case might have caused pupilmaster to think a little unclearly. Never very punctual [see https://ianrmillard.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/home-and-away-or-neighbours/], pupilmaster was in danger of yet again irritating a judge by appearing late in Court (a massive discourtesy if the judge has already taken his seat). He poo-poohed my warning about this, saying, “Don’t worry– I know a short-cut into this court; it’s up those stairs. I’ve been here before”, indicating a dark stairway not far away. The defendant was bid au revoir for the moment, and we ascended the stairs.

In the words of Victorian novels, “imagine my surprise” when, instead of emerging outside the courtroom, we found ourselves in the dock! Worse, the judge was seated, looking livid, and the court was packed to such an extent that it reminded me of the famous courtroom scene in the old black and white film of A Tale of Two Cities. This was not good. Pupilmaster hissed at me to find the (hidden) catch so that we could exit the dock and take our proper place. After some fumbling, this was done. The judge, quite the Judge Jeffreys type, had turned that odd red-purple colour which might be called Judicial Livid, and which I myself may have triggered a couple of times in succeeding years. Not good.

The barrister for the co-defendant was there and all we now awaited was the putting-up of the defendants. It was at this point that it turned out that the co-defendant had exercized his non-existent right not to turn up for his trial. As a result, the trial collapsed, the defendant was bailed again and a warrant was issued for the arrest of the co-defendant.

So it was that another day in the pursuit of Justice ended.

Home and Away, or Neighbours?

Prologue on the Stage [with apologies to Goethe’s Faust]

At the belated age of 35, in early 1992, I embarked upon a Bar pupillage (which, for anyone reading outside England and Wales, means being a trainee-barrister for a year broken up into 2 6-month parts). The system was archaic. Having acquired a law degree and completed the 1-year Bar Finals course, and having passed all exams, you were expected, as a “pupil”,  to trail around after a barrister (“pupil-master”) from whom you were expected to learn not so much the law as the practical procedure and habitude of the Bar and the courts.

The pupilmaster was the same age as me (a source of many a joke from him) and was a Mauritian of Indian descent, by name Raj N., whose father had been Minister of Justice, I believe, back home. At short notice, the pupillage had been set up by a friend of mine who shall be nameless (now that I am apparently “notorious” as a “far right” “extremist”– if you believe the “Lugenpresse” aka msm liars). I had to take what I could get. Having said that, Raj N. was basically a very decent little chap and we became quite friendly. His practice was an odd mixture: partly civil law with quite a few High Court judicial reviews; the rest, Crown Court criminal trials ranging from armed robbery to blackmail and almost everything else.

The first six months were unpaid (in those days, but not so now, when most if not all pupils are subsidized); not even unavoidable expenses such as travel were covered. The only expense that could be relied upon, if the pupilmaster were decent, would be a supply of drinks at the Cittie of York pub in Holborn or at Daly’s wine bar in Fleet Street (in Rumpole of the Bailey, “Pomeroy’s”), at the time called something else, a change which the Bar did not accept (and the Bar won that one, because I noticed recently that Daly’s is now called Daly’s again…).

I had come back from the USA to do the pupillage and had very little money. I got by, God knows how…I may have forgotten to pay my Underground fares at times, and one day, en route to Wood Green Crown Court in North London, I noticed, while ascending the escalator at Bound’s Green Underground Station, where –ticket-inspectors permitting–the pupilmaster usually picked me up, if our case was in North-East London or beyond, that the soles of my expensive handmade shoes were starting to part company with the uppers. I was not allowed to do my own cases (initially, “rubbish” cast off from barristers in my Chambers) and so make any money at all until I was in the second six-month period of pupillage. It was hard. Steps had to be taken. They were. However, that would be another story in itself.

One thing that made the first six months of pupillage bearable was the degree to which the pupilmaster got himself into amusing pickles, often in Court. Here is but one example.

The One Where Home and Away was the Alibi

So to that Rumpolian staple, Inner London Crown Court, situate halfway between London Bridge and Elephant and Castle. A rather grim old setting for many a case of serious and often “heavy” crime. In this case, serious rather than heavy. In legal terms, robbery; in lay terms, a mugging. The primary facts were that, on the ghastly North Peckham Estate in South London, a young man was hit in the face and money stolen. What distinguished this case from the many was that the victim had actually met and been introduced to the alleged robber some months prior to the robbery, a fact that (presumably) the defendant had forgotten, but (unfortunately for the defendant) the victim had not. There had been an identity parade, what the Americans call a line-up. The robber had been picked out.

Now, on the facts as stated above, you might think that the best course would be for the defendant to hold his hands up, plead to it and hope that his Counsel might mitigate the sentence. In any case, the Court is supposed to knock a third off for a guilty plea, though that is of course notional, because the guidelines for judges have latitude built in. In this case the defendant insisted on pleading Not Guilty. So there we were: an alleged robber whose victim knew him personally or at least had met him, and had identified him. What did the robber have to say?

The defendant was a rather large West Indian, a former amateur boxer of about 30, with a considerable criminal record for theft, robbery, drug misuse and so on. His alibi was that he not only was he not guilty and not at or near the scene of the crime but that he could not have done the crime, because every single day, without fail, he and his girlfriend (also West Indian) and her sister sat down at (I think it was, about) 5 pm to watch the Australian soap, Home and Away. Needless to say, such an alibi was thin, even with a supporting witness (the girlfriend). He thought, God knows why, that he had a good chance of getting off. In the meantime, he was being held in custody at “high security” Belmarsh Prison.

The first day of trial was absurd, with the perenially-late pupilmaster being told off not once but twice for tardiness. On the second occasion, after lunch, the plump-faced but not unattractive lady judge also waved her beringed fingers in front of her (the middle finger housing a massive rock that looked like it belonged in the V & A) and had taken the trouble to procure a printed copy of a page which she pointedly invited the pupilmaster to “peruse at your leisure, Mr. N.” It turned out to be the responsibilities of Counsel not to waste court time and the power of the judge to recommend that his (Legal Aid) fees be docked accordingly.

When the Defence opened on the second day, it turned out that the judge required that both sides should agree on when Home and Away was screened. Much quiet amusement from public gallery and jury box, but the judge and all Counsel had no idea of the timings. Judging from looks and smiles, the jury already knew the timings. Prosecution Counsel, a jolly fat little man, acquired copies of Radio Times and TV Times. These were perused. At that point, it was discovered that Home and Away was screened twice on every weekday afternoon, once at 5-something and, before that, at 2-something. These were, apparently, identical episodes, so it would have been possible for the defendant to see the first showing and still be free to mug the victim.

In the event, the sole Defence witness, the girlfriend (the defendant did not give evidence) scarcely came up to proof. Prosecution Counsel’s killer question asked whether, if she and defendant watched the first showing on any particular day, they would sit down again 3 hours later and watch it all over again. Her angry “YES!” carried little weight. The jury took little time to convict. When it was all over and the Prosecution Counsel was leaving, he jovially remarked to us, “well, I’m off home, home to watch Home and Away!”, to which the family and girlfriend of the defendant, having heard the remark, addressed a few choice epithets before scurrying off.

When we saw the defendant in the cells below (they are always below…), he was happy enough, despite the pretty stiff 5-year sentence that he had received about an hour before (the pupilmaster liked to give convicted defendants time to cool down…). Defendant’s formerly vice-like handshake was limp, explained by his “Ah’m OK, man. I can do a 5 on my ‘ead. Ah’ve just ‘ad a smoke, ani-way”…Where he got the stuff (cannabis) from, God knows. Better not enquired after.

So there we have it. Justice a la mode. Followed by a drink at a convenient hostelry.

[this little remembrance forms part of an occasional series on the absurdities of Bar practice as it was for me between 1992 and 2008]

 

 

Fake News, Fake History and Fake Memories: the UK in the 1970s etc

The Story

I went to school on the train endless strikes waiting on cold platforms for hours. Then returned home to a house with power cuts no heating hot food it was a nightmare for at least 10 years“— who can guess on what the lady I quote was, in a semi-literate fashion, commenting? The Second World War? Surely not: that only lasted for 6 years. The Siege of Leningrad? No, that lasted for a shorter period yet— 2 years, 4 months. What, then? In fact the lady in question was commenting, in the online Daily Mail, on the UK railways and, in the wider sense, on the UK generally in the 1970s.

Well, it certainly sounds like it was awful. The problem with that, though, is that it is in fact not true. The trains in England (where I lived; Wales and Scotland were similar) were not subject to “endless” strikes (though there were certainly far more than is now the case) and the station platforms were no colder than they are now. What about “power cuts”, “no heating [or] hot food”?

The Reality

The “Three Day Week” only lasted for 3 months (January-March 1974) and only commercial users of electricity were cut off or required to cease using electrical power. Most domestic users were unaffected. Newspaper printing, supermarkets and hospitals were also exempt. In other words, if the lady quoted at top is not simply making up her story of hardship (or failing to remember accurately), the reasons must lie elsewhere. Maybe her parents failed to pay their electricity bill! Only joking…In fact, two years before that, there had been announced (on 16 February 1972) a rolling programme of area outages (including domestic users) but peace broke out 2-3 days later (midday on 19 February 1972) so, again, few domestic users were affected, though a minority had seen limited outages earlier, in early February.

There was, also, the “Winter of Discontent”, which occurred in the winter of 1978-79, but in fact (in its acute phase) was only effective in January and early February 1979. In reality, we are talking about weeks rather than months. Neither domestic nor commercial users of electricity lost power; gas and coal users were likewise unaffected.

So there we have it: the lady commenting on these matters at top seems to be a victim of selective amnesia when she regards a decade of her childhood as having been an awful ten years without rail travel, heating, lighting etc. The “decade” in question turns out to have been affected for about 2-4 months out of 120…

In fact, the amnesiac lady is not alone. Time and again we read about how the UK spent much of the 1970s in the dark, in the cold, without public transport, without food, rubbish uncollected and dead bodies unburied. It’s nonsense, but many really believe it, even those who were there, which is worrying…I should add that I myself was there, having been born in 1956; by the way, those “dead bodies unburied” did exist briefly (for a few days) in the winter of 1978-79, but only in two or three small areas of Liverpool and Manchester. Less noxious rubbish did pile up, but not for very long and not everywhere.

This fake history, that the 1970s were a decade of “socialist” chaos and dislocation, is quite entrenched now. This canard has wings! The various “Conservative” newspapers in the UK repeat it as an article of faith.

Other Fake Memories

No, I am not going to blog, here anyway, about the “holocaust” scammers and delusionals. I want to focus on a few other things. One persistent idea (which I have even seen said and written by journalists and TV talking heads older than me) is that Britain had no decent food until about 20 years ago! It’s just nonsense! Another is that life was harder for people in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s than it now is. More nonsense. In, say, the 1970s, people mostly had secure jobs, which paid enough to live on; there were no such things as foodbanks; social security was far better overall, the disabled and unemployed were not bullied by DWP jobsworths; the mass immigration which is making the UK (especially parts of England) into a human zoo had not really begun to snowball; workers had fixed hours, which included decent lunch breaks of 1 hour (often interpreted generously); there was no such thing (for most employees) as being on call after hours, in the evenings or on weekends and holidays. In addition, it was far easier (for anyone qualified) to access higher education.

Conclusion

There is a wave of unreality around. I have a –perhaps idiosyncratic– theory that the various kinds of lies or lying fake “facts” that people are often now expected to believe (“holocaust” fakery, the idea that races and peoples are all somehow “equal”, the idea that National Socialism was “evil” etc) have affected the general sense of truth in society, so that many cannot detect lies, and indeed often lie to themselves as well as others about recent history and even about their own experiences.

Notes:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-Day_Week

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/february/16/newsid_2757000/2757099.stm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_of_Discontent