There was an audible stir of anticipation in the court as Dolores entered, drenched from head to toe in a strongly-scented, not to say overpowering, perfume. My eyes began to water with the sheer intoxication of it as she swayed seductively past me on her way to the witness box. Dolores, otherwise known as Sharon Turner, was a dyed-bright redhead on the wrong side of 40, plump, with a painted face worthy of Toulouse-Lautrec. Mutton dressed as lamb, I thought uncharitably, as she minced her way to the witness box in a provocative polka dot minidress which was only just decent by anybody’s standards. His lordship’s eyes lit up, and his welcoming smile had an almost lascivious edge to it. He was beginning to enjoy himself, and it showed.

Dolores took the oath in a quiet, demure voice, gave the judge an engaging smile, and then sat down.

‘Please state your name and address,’ said Ham, totally unmoved by this vision of loveliness.

‘Dolores del Fabro,’ she said, before adding ‘Miss’, for good measure. ‘Of 24 Eaton Square, London. Do you want my phone number as well?’ She giggled, displaying a row of pearly white teeth.

‘I think not,’ replied Ham, colouring visibly.

‘Eaton Square?’ asked the judge. Dolores nodded. ‘What a coincidence,’ he continued, smiling warmly. ‘We’re near neighbours.’

‘I thought your lordship looked familiar.’

There was an audible chuckle from the public gallery as the judge cleared his throat and regained his composure. ‘You were saying, Mr Berger?’

‘Madam,’ he began, putting both feet right in it. Even I could see that one coming.

Dolores immediately burst into tears. ‘Madam?’ she exploded through hysterical sobs. ‘Who do you think you are, calling me Madam? I didn’t come here to be insulted by an ignorant little moron like you!’

His lordship rushed to her side – metaphorically-speaking, of course. ‘Please calm yourself, Miss del Fabro, no slight on your character was intended, I am sure. The ignorant little moron is prosecution counsel who is duty-bound to ask you questions, and we must all bear with him – for the time being, at least.’ The judge stared icily at Berger. ‘Shall we try again, Mr Berger, and this time with a little sensitivity?’

‘As your lordship pleases,’ Ham whined, and turned back to Dolores. ‘Were you in Argyle Square on the night of the eleventh of November?’

‘No, my lord,’ said Sir Archibald, rising from his seat. ‘That, as my learned friend should know, is a leading question, and is not permitted under the rules of evidence.’

Young and inexperienced as I was, I knew that leading questions, which suggested the answer, or which contained information Counsel wished to have confirmed, were strictly ‘verboten’.

His lordship nodded. ‘Quite right, Sir Archibald. Mr Berger, it is a basic rule – a very basic rule – of evidence that you cannot lead your own witness. Even your pupil knows that.’ I winced. ‘Rephrase your question.’

‘I apologise, my lord.’ Back to Dolores. ‘Where were you on the night of the eleventh of November last?’

‘That’s nearly a year ago, how can I possibly remember? I’m a very busy girl.’

‘Busy at what?’ snapped Berger, beginning to lose his composure.

‘That’s none of your business,’ Dolores snapped back.

‘Yes it is.’

‘No it isn’t.’

‘Really, Mr Berger,’ interrupted the judge as Sir Archibald was on the way up again, ‘this is getting us nowhere. I suggest you try another approach.’

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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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