Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Apocrypha (13)

One of the occasional perils of the job is seeing someone you know in the dock. It has happened to me a few times over the years, and depending on the circumstances I have either left the bench or transferred the case to another courtroom. What matters is not whether you might be biased, but whether a casual observer might think that you could be, so safety-first is the usual approach.

A long time ago we had two men in the dock who had been arrested for gross indecency in a public toilet, the pastime known as 'cottaging'. To my horror, I saw that one of them was Peter, the son of a good friend of mine. I was aware of the young man's proclivities, because he made no secret of them and his manner was camp and exhibitionistic, but nevertheless after a quick word to the chairman I was off.

Later we had coffee out the back and the clerk joined us. "Interesting friends you have, sir" he said with a straight face.

As a postscript, I saw Peter holding court in the pub one day, and when he saw me walk in he ostentatiously turned his back on me with a toss of the head. "Suit yourself" thought I, and I put the matter out of my mind. Some months afterwards he came up to me and said "You know what upset me about that, don't you?" "No" I replied.

"Well", he said, "I mean, gross indecency! Of course it was indecent, that's what we went there for. But there was nothing gross about it."

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