‘All rise,’ intoned the judge’s clerk, as the judge emerged from behind the impressive solid oak throne to take his seat in the place of judgment. As I was later to discover, this was the Honourable Mr Justice Boniface, known as ‘Sourpuss’, and one of Her Majesty’s High Court Judges. He wore a robe of scarlet red, fetchingly trimmed with ermine, and clutching a pair of white gloves. A small wig perched precariously on his bald pate, and nearly slipped off as he bowed to the court. Pink, fleshy and bejowled features glared out at the assembled multitude, only breaking into a fleeting and wintry smile as he acknowledged defence counsel.

The court clerk rose, as did the Defendant, a dignified-looking man with thinning, grey hair.

‘Are you Adrian Donald Fortescue Browne?’ asked the clerk, in a loud and sententious voice.

‘I am,’ came the reply.

Startled, I looked harder at him. Could it be? It was! I tried not to stare. The man in the dock, this Fortescue Browne chap, was the former Director of Public Prosecutions, and the object of intense press and media speculation. Not a bad start to my career – albeit merely an interested observer in the unfolding drama.

Calm and composed, he stared straight ahead as the gentlemen of the Press began scribbling feverishly. This was very exciting indeed.

‘Sit down.’ Mr Justice Boniface glowered at Ham. ‘Is this to be a trial, Mr…’ He glanced down at the slip of paper containing the names of counsel, ‘Berger?’

‘It is indeed, my lord,’ replied Ham, confidently.

‘So be it,’ said Sourpuss, with no discernible enthusiasm. ‘Then summon the jury panel.’

It took a good ten minutes for the jury panel to assemble in court, brought as they were from the catacombs of the building usually reserved for filing cabinets, refuse disposal and miscellaneous. As they stood, blinking in the cold light of the court, and totally disorientated, Mr Justice Boniface glared over at me, and then back at Berger.

‘Mr Berger.’ The Judge was plainly not amused. ‘There is a young man fully robed sitting in the well of the court.’ He nodded towards me. ‘Have I missed something, and if so, what part is he to play in these proceedings?’

Ham leapt to his feet, shot a glance over to me, coloured visibly, and started to jerk his head uncontrollably in my direction. Defence Counsel rose slowly to his feet, bowed, and turned towards me.

To my amazement and relief, it was the same tall, distinguished and friendly face from the robing room. He leant down towards me and whispered, ‘Don’t worry, old chap, but you’re sitting in the jury box. Why don’t you go and sit behind Berger?’

This was the worst day of my life – or so I thought, naïvely, at the time. I clambered out of the jury box, all eyes upon me, and made my way down to Counsel’s benches. Ham, for his part, was apologising profusely, which, in the circumstances, was the least he could do.

‘Mr Potts is my pupil, my lord,’ he whined, ‘and this is his first day in court. He is obviously unfamiliar with our ways.’

‘A self-evident observation, Mr Berger,’ snapped his lordship, ‘and precisely why pupils have pupil masters – to show them the ropes.’

The unspoken criticism of Ham was lost on nobody. He looked uncomfortable, and glowered at me.

‘Now shall we get on?’

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David is an English barrister, writer, public performer and keynote speaker. His full profile can be found on his website.


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