The Facts are for You. A Diversion by Nigel Pascoe

……
Two men sit side by side in a Crown Court jury waiting room

M1 First week?

M2 Second.

M1. Right. (pause) How was it?

M2 Not bad. Two trials and two very different Judges.

M1 Really?

M2 Could hardly be more so. Judge Manning, old school. Full of cricketing expressions and always smiling. We loved him.

Judge two, Frost, good name for him, very different – academic and dry as dust. All the time, he seemed to be reading from a Judge’s manual and he never smiled once.

M1 Convict?

M2 Judge Manning yes, twenty minutes flat. Not that he influenced us. Though he did say – ..you may think the defendant seemed to be on a sticky wicket in cross examination. Which of course he was. But with Judge Frost we were hopelessly stuck. He had to discharge us.

M1 So why was that then?

M2 To be honest, I don’t think half of them knew what he wanted us to do.

M1 But isn’t that the point? We decide the facts. At least that’s what it said on the jury video.

M2 Yes but we were always looking for a hint, just something to point us in the right direction.

M1 Oh. Ok.

M2 And it never came. Totally fair –

M1 Yeah

M2 But bloodless. Hope we don’t get him again. Give me Manning every time. And I hate cricket.

Enter Daisy Wilkins, slowly. An elderly, very indiscreet chatty usher

Grief, me feet are killing me. Either of you two second week?

M2. Me

Daisy. Seen the video?

M2. Yes. Twenty minutes ago.

Daisy That’s a relief. If I see that once more, I’ll pop me clogs, I really will.

M1. Which Judge do you think we’ll have, Daisy?

Daisy. Well Court 3 has got the floater. So my bet is Country Life.

M1. Who?

Daisy That’s what we call Judge Manning. Behind ‘is back of course. Though he probably knows it. Lovely man. One year at the Christmas party he kissed me under the mistletoe. Naughty bugger. (She cackles loudly at the memory)

M1 Who is the other one, the one with the straight face?

Daisy. You mean Judge Frost?

M1 Yes

Daisy Now he’ s a strange one. Very proper, but some of my younger lady ushers are a bit uncomfortable with him.

M2 Why is that, then?

Daisy. Well, it’s the way he looks at them. Or bits of them, if you know what I mean. Eyes ’em up, so to speak. And then there was that funny business with the photographs.

M1. What was that about, Daisy?

Daisy. We had this case about a swimming instructor for a formation dancing team, who liked photography. Dirty old man. The exhibits went missing, till they were discovered in the Judge’s briefcase.

M1 What’s wrong with that? He could have been preparing his summing up.

Daisy. Yes, dear, but it wasn’t his case!

Loudspeaker

Will all remaining jurors go with the usher to Court 3

Daisy. That’s Country Life. Come on, then. Off we go.

Lights down and then up on Court 3

His Honour Judge Manning in chair behind table. The two jurors sit sideways as if part of the jury.

Judge Manning

Now Ladies and gentlemen. Just a few words of wisdom before start of play.

The bowling starts usually at 10.30 and we knock off for lunch at one. Afternoon play begins at 2.15 and stumps drawn at about 4.30. That is if the weather holds and we don’t run out of witnesses. Otherwise it’s pads off and an early bath, what!

Now that’s where you lot have got to be very careful not to drop the ball. When you get home, some friendly soul is quite likely to say – well darling, how was your day and has he done it, that sort of thing.

And you are going to say to them – the old Judge said mum’s the word. Can’t say a word about it. Umpire’ decision is final. Get the picture? Good.

Now just one for thing. Berner-Lee’s thingamy. – what is it?

Oh yes, the Inter Net. During this case, don’t touch it with a barge pole.

By which I mean – no after-play research at close of play. Not that this case is up there on the inter net – I’ve no reason to suppose so at all. But once jurors start to do their own research, goodness knows where it would finish. Well, in your case it would be about six months. So be warned. We will play this case by the rules and may the best side win.

Excuse me. I have just got a note from the Clerk of the Court.
It seems as if I have been asked to sit tomorrow as a spare leg in the Court of Appeal. Great honour and all that for a humble Circuit Judge, but what it means is that I am going to have to transfer this case lock, stock and barrel to Judge Frost in Court 4.

I am very sorry. Never mind, he is a very interesting man, if a tad less keen on cricket that I am. Still I am sure you will cope with each other admirably.

Rises and bows

(Stage whisper to Usher)

Daisy, tell that young lady in the front row to wear something a little less exciting. Judge Frost might keel over.

Lights down and up. Scene as before but Judge Frost is sitting. He is distinctly creepy and increasingly wound up about sex…

HHJ Frost

Usher, will you please close the blinds. Thank you. The sun affects my hay fever.

M1 to M2 And who knows what else!

Judge. Now members of the jury, I want to give you a few words of explanation of the circumstances which bring you and I together. You from the highways and byways of rural England. Me from the dreaming spires of academia. And yet we meet on equal if completely different terms.

As you will appreciate, I am the Judge in this case. My brother Manning would call me the umpire, but I prefer the the slightly longer title of independent arbiter in the cause of truth. Truth which I hasten to add, depends on proof. More of that when I come to sum up the case.

You, however, decide the facts. That is your jurisdiction where I shall not tread, interpret or risk exploration. Putting it shortly, if the case is not entirely clear, you must bear your fate with equanimity. For I shall not be in that principality holding your hand. Or any other part of your collective anatomy.

One final matter which I need to put with a degree of delicacy and circumspection. This case has a sexual component to it. In fact, the whole case is riddled with sex! And sex can be a disturbing intrusion into our otherwise ordered lives. Burrowing into our self consciousness. Animating our dreams. Yes, sex is a very dangerous animal!

So my advice to you is not to becomes obsessed by it.
Or let it overwhelm your emotions. Or basic instincts. Just let the evidence roll past you and preserve your inner tranquillity. If you can.

But let no one think this will become a sexual maelstrom of such a character as would disturb the even tenor of justice. Were it to become so, there is no knowing what effect it might have on us.

And that includes me.

So without further words I will invite Prosecuting counsel to draw to your attention the salient and rather sexual facts which bring it in front of me. And of course, in front of you too. Yes, Mr Maddison.

Counsel. Members of the jury. In this case I appear to prosecute and my learned friend Mr Murgatroyd appears for the money. By which I mean the defendant, whom you will be pleased to hear will not be costing the state a single penny in the conduct of his defence.

No,according to my learned friend, he merely sold another picture from the walls of his Knightsbridge gallery.

Now this is a serious allegation of a sexual nature and I will leave the learned Judge to tell you all how you should approach such a delicate matter as sex in court…

Judge Frost (interrupting and plainly over-excited at the mere mention of sex)

With huge restraint, members of the jury. You must not let that hideous creature run roughshod through your veins and prejudice you against the defendant in any way whatsoever…

Lights Down and Up

Daisy is sitting on stage alone in the Judge’ s chair.
She is writing a letter to her sister Doris

So that’s what happened, dear. They parked the ambulance at the back of the court and gave him a little injection. Twenty eight days down the clinic and Frostie will be right as rain. And the case has gone back to Country Life.

You will never guess where I am. Siting up on His Nibs chair after they’ve all gone ‘ome for the night to their duck pate and beef on the bone. Well, Doris that’s how the other half live, innit?

Light fade and up on Judge Manning

As I was saying, members of the jury, before rain stopped play, you will be pleased to hear that Judge Frost is feeling much better. Mind you, I blame counsel. All that adjectival diarrhoea was bound to upset my brother Judge. The way to approach sexual matters is really very simple. Just play a straight bat. All there is to it.

Now where was I? Oh yes, the complainant Tracey told us that at that point, the defendant put his hands where no decent Englishman has any right to go. Or should I say, go without consent. I mean, really!

And that is the case for the prosecution..

CURTAIN

This is the second of three plays under the general title of Trial by Jury.

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