R v Upward Day 4: Cocklecarrot Finds No Escape From Justice


Before Mr Justice Cocklecarrot could resume the trial of Luke Upward on a reduced charge of causing criminal damage to a neon sign he found it necessary to instruct the new court reporter who had replaced the dismissed Charles Dickens.

  “Mr Reporter, be so good as to approach the bench.” A figure almost as well-groomed as Upward himself shimmered before the judge. Only a slight error in the adjustment of a sock suspender would have allowed an expert observer to distinguish his tenue from that ofEngland’s immaculate man-of-letters. “Your name, Mr Reporter?”

  “Reporter, m’lud.”

The judge’s knuckles were white as he gripped his bound copy of Every Boy’s Guide To Criminal Procedure. “If this be flummery…” he thundered, showing even in rage an impressive command of the subjunctive. The shorthand stylist checked him, in tones almost as silken as his well-pressed Hermès handkerchief.

“Reporter is my name, m’lud. Rusi Reporter. It is commonplace for Parsee families such as mine to bear the names of occupations. That explains why during certain Test cricket matches in the 1960s the Indian batting was opened by an Engineer and a Contractor.”

“Very well. And you are not just a reporter in name but a reporter of note? A reporter… of note?” Cocklecarrot repeated in the futile hope of  eliciting {laughter}.

“I hope, m’lud, that I have some standing in my profession. Earlier this year I received the Gold Medal of the Diacritical Society for my work on the civil case of Jelišić  & Cambacérès v The São Paulo, Tromsø and Göttingen Universität Steamship Company (in re de la Peña).”

“Most laudatory, Mr Reporter, but pay attention to the punctuation in this court, or I shall have to give you a dire critical report.”

“I shall endeavour to give satisfaction, m’lud” said the suave scribe, feeling it prudent to add the entry {laughter} to the judge’s last sally, although there had been none.

“Read out the remaining charge, Sir Tipstaff.”

Upward and his counsel remained equally impassive, which was easy enough since they were co-terminous, as the tipstaff intoned “… causing criminal damage to a neon sign, being part of the hereditament of the Polo Lounge nightclub, being the property of Mr Farley Cheese and the Advanced Laundry Corporation, registered in the Cayman Islands.”

Cocklecarrot again looked puzzled. “Why should a laundry want to own a nightclub?”

The discordant squeal of cheap imported plastic soles announced that Prodnose was back on his feet. “I am advised, m’lud, that the Caymans company was anxious to diversify its business and has acquired interests in nightclubs, restaurants, bars and certain import/export ventures where cash may be present. However, it continues to offer services of laundering and invisible mending.”

“Not my idea of a pleasurable evening – watching your smalls go round and round.”

“I believe, m’lud, that most patrons found it more entertaining than the performance of Johnny Atempo, whom the prosecution will call as its principal witness.” Characteristically, even in the depths of his own peril, Upward took the chance to strike a blow for his friend, Ricky Rubato.

“Mr Upward, you and your client have heard what is left of the charges against him.  Have you any objection to the formulation used?”

“None whatever, m’lud.” To Upward’s mild surprise, he detected a pleading note in the judge’s question.

“Have you detected no error in reference or expression which would vitiate the charge and compel me to throw out the case?”

“No indeed, m’lud.”

“No misplaced comma?”

“No, m’lud.”

“The wrong watermark in the paper on which it is printed?”

“No, m’lud. My client and I are eager for you to try the case. He believes that great issues of law and public policy are at stake. He seeks in this case to light a beacon for the night.”

“I believe, Mr Upward, that your client is more anxious to extinguish beacons at night than to light them.” The judge was gratified by {laughter}.  Upward shook his head ruefully, as if hit for six, although he had deliberately chosen to serve up that metaphorical long-hop for Cocklecarrot to despatch over the rope, after the fashion of bowlers in prewar India when the maharajah came in to bat.  “Without giving your opening address, Mr Upward, could you indicate some of those great issues with which this court must tangle?”

The self-represented man-of-letters swept his gaze over the jury. The ironmonger prematurely swallowed her throat sweet and he solicitously waited for her to recover. The timid tailor dropped an entire thimble and even the foreman, a retired lion tamer, had to look away. “M’lud, my client will be entering a defence of necessity, that he acted in response to a present and immediate peril to himself and his neighbours, namely the extinction of their stars, and in the alternative, he will be relying on the doctrine of ancient lights.”

“I had a terrible feeling that ancient lights would turn up in this case.”

“As your Lordship will no doubt instruct the jury, since time out of memory any freeborn Englishman has been entitled to receive natural light, from which may be inferred his right to receive natural dark. In modern times, of course, those rights also inhere in any freeborn Englishwoman,” added with a dazzling smile at the ironmonger.

“The defence will no doubt engage on a historical review of this right since the Hivites and the Hittites?” said the judge, sweeping his own gaze over Upward’s brimming bundles with the suggestion of a sneer.

“Only as necessary for the argument,” replied the s-r m-of-l in an equable tone.  “But, as your Lordship will again instruct the jury, the right to natural light and by extension natural dark has developed in intimate association with certain other rights of freeborn Englishmen and latterly, Englishwomen, including turbary, estovers, piscary…”

“Objection, m’lud!” Mr Prodnose was again on his feet, an event announced on this occasion not only by the squeal of his plastic soles but also by the electrostatic cackle of some nasty artificial fabric used to assemble his ill-fitting suit. “The defence is on a fishing expedition.”

“Objection sustained. Strike out piscary.”

Upward continued in the same equable tone. “As your Lordship pleases. But the defence will also develop arguments from the rights of pannage, scutage, tonnage, poundage, stowage, scrimmage, wreckage, bandage, postage, borage,  cribbage…”

“Enough!” cried the judge in piteous tones.  “Mr Upward, tell me one thing only. Are there any red-bearded dwarfs in this case?”

“None, m’lud. But the defence will be relying on observations of twelve red dwarf stars.”

Cocklecarrot stifled a sob. “Was it for this that I studied Latin with the flickering aid of my miner’s lamp deep in caverns of carbon?” Much to the presiding judge’s regret, the case would continue.

12. February 2013 by rkh
Categories: Belles-Lettres | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on R v Upward Day 4: Cocklecarrot Finds No Escape From Justice