R v Upward: Day 8 The Surprising Appeal of Hardy Prodnose
But for the fear of scuffing his faultless brogues, Luke Upward might have kicked himself for his line of questioning of Dr Strabismus (Whom God Hath Preserved In Utrecht) when defending himself against a charge of criminal damage to a neon sign advertising the Polo Lounge nightclub to the detriment of the super-adjacent night sky. Far from impressing the jury, the sage’s description of neon as a “noble gas” had enabled the normally lacklustre opposing counsel, Hardy Prodnose, to rouse the resentment of the jury as members of the underclass.
Hastily, Upward dismissed Dr Strabismus from the witness box. The sage made a joyful reunion with the confiscated dogfishes he had carried with him under the mistaken impression that he was addressing a conference on marine conservation. Upward now had no option but to play for time until the arrival of his (literally) star witness, Susan Sarandon. She had yet to answer the summons sent to her ex parte the eager Cocklecarrot J. As Upward plodded through his next set of witnesses (a group of infants school teachers) with the speed of one of the racehorses he routinely backed in a betting career which was a stranger even to place money he could sense the impatience of the presiding judge.
Upward heard nothing from Susan Sarandon but suddenly he received dramatic news of another witness. “M’lud, I have just learnt of an accident to Mr Roger Rabbit, who was due to testify to the court on the importance of seeing stars in his profession. He has been hit over the head by an anvil, and his head has assumed the shape of the said anvil.”
“Well, what of it, Mr Upward? I understand that this is a normal occurrence in that profession.”
“Indeed, m’lud, and the character so affected normally sees a number of rotating stars before remoulding (‘popping’ is the technical term) his or her head back into its original shape. But on this occasion, Mr Rabbit has proved powerless to ‘pop’. The finest animated surgeons have proved helpless in the case. Mr Rabbit’s head remains, most distressingly, an anvil. Unless and until it ‘pops’ spontaneously he will remain unable to give his essential evidence to the court.”
Cocklecarrot pondered. “Approach the bench, Mr Upward.” The two had one of their now familiar whispered conferences outwith the recording range of Mr Reporter by name and profession. “This accident may be timely. We have yet to hear from Miss Sarandon.” He raised his voice to full declaratory volume. “This is a tragic development. The court extends its wishes for a speedy restoration of Mr Rabbit’s head. But in these circumstances I am compelled to grant the defence’s implied request for an interlocutory viaticum. The case is adjourned.”
Prodnose was on his feet. His cheap clothing and accessories emitted their customary cacophony but this could not be heard against the force of his expostulation. “M’lud. This is most irregular. I must ask your Lordship for how long the case is adjourned.”
“Indefinitely? With respect, m’lud, in all my years at the bar I have never heard this expression in connexion with an adjournment. The usual expression…”
“It means what it says, Mr Prodnose, and be damn’d with the usual expression. The case is now adjourned.” Taking their cue from their foreman, the jury rose as one. Or rather, almost as one. For the keen-eyed Upward noticed that the new juror, Mr Leo Pard, responded fractionally quicker than all the other ten.
Seeing a rare chance of legal glory, the pernickety Prodnose appealed against the adjournment. He argued that it was out of order, void, vacant and vitiated, because Cocklecarrot J had used the unrecognized term of “indefinitely” rather than the proper legal formula of “sine die.” This was such an important legal point that the Court of Appeal gave immediate notice of an appeal to the House of Lords in anticipation of any judgment it might make.
The subsequent proceedings in Britain’s highest court were unusual in that the Attorney General appeared on both sides of the argument wearing a different hat. For Prodnose he wore his hat as the minister in charge of the prosecution service and for Cocklecarrot he wore his hat as a Law Officer of the Crown. Mrs Attorney General then discovered that she liked her husband in hats and at her request he tried on a third hat by appearing as an amicus curiae. Many of England’s most distinguished barristers found a way of attaching themselves to the proceedings, on refreshers. The rustle of silks turned the normally drab Lords chamber into one of the pavilions of Xanadu.
While the law Lords considered detailed arguments for and against the legality of the adjournment, the actual trial began again, or rather, re-commenced, at the request of the jury, several of whom were anxious to regain their right to watch television. The case would continue, after all.