How Not to Behave in Court

 

We’ve all been there. You’re attending some sombre event, maybe a funeral or some such thing, and for no apparent reason something strikes you as amusing and against all your efforts to remain appropriately stony faced, as small smile makes itself known. One place where you don’t want this to happen is in a courtroom, but alas, happen it did to Yours Truly.

A former affiliate of mine was requested to attend court to answer quite a serious matter which I won’t go into here. Maybe ‘requested’ isn’t quite the right word, I think they called it a ‘Notice to Appear’. But anyway, I’d never witnessed a real court case and so I thought it would be interesting to pop along and just see how the whole thing operates. As a result I was actually quite fortunate to not end up with a ‘Notice to Appear’ myself.

The trial was due to be heard in the early afternoon, so I went to work and did a half day at the old grindstone, knocked off, had a bite to eat and made my way to the courthouse. As expected there were security scanners on the way in which caused me no real concern, so imagine my surprise when, after putting my bag on the conveyor belt and it popped out the other side, the nice burly security bloke said unto me “would you like to explain this please, Sir?”

Now I must digress to explain what the aforementioned nice burly security bloke was concerned about. About two weeks prior it was my birthday. At the time I worked for a particular Government Department which shall remain nameless, but let’s just say if you wanted to Licence a Weapon in Queensland, I worked in the office that you’d go to.

I was a smoker at that stage and as a birthday present my colleagues had all chipped in and bought me a cigarette lighter……….in the shape of a small handgun. It was a wonderful reproduction and at the end of the day I put it in my bag to take home, and promptly forgot it was there. Can you see where I’m going with this?

So we jump forward a couple of weeks and that big burly security guard. As I look to where he’s pointing at the screen, in perfect profile is what appears to be a small handgun. Not just that, it had what appeared to be a silencer on the end. Knowing what it was I found the whole episode quite hilarious and started laughing, but Mr Security didn’t seem to share my mirth. I explained that it was a lighter and he asked me to retrieve it and hand it over, which I duly did.

Justice statue
Sometimes it’s good that justice is blind. You can get away with more.

Still highly amused by this episode I wandered into the cavernous magisterial room, full of polished timber and leather seats and right up the front, a good two metres higher than the level set aside for the great un-washed was the exalted heights of the Magistrate’s Chair. All very impressive and intimidating. The Counsel for the Prosecution wandered in followed by the Counsel for the Defence and my former affiliate. Then the Beak herself wandered in, all black robes, grey hair and imperiousness.

For the most part the trial itself was very formal, with none of the theatrics that you see in TV and movies, and it seemed to drag on, but was also quite interesting in terms of the process they all went through with the acknowledgements to ‘my learned colleague’ etc, etc. Cases for and against were presented and then came the big moment, the verdict.

Or so I thought. Apparently the Beak needed to ‘consider’ the case and rather than head off to her chambers she remained in her seat, perusing the paperwork in front of everyone. I thought to myself “what could she possibly be looking for that the two lawyers hadn’t already presented?” And then it struck me, she’s building the tension and doing it brilliantly. Now with my already jovial frame of mind as a result of the lighter incident, I found this tension building to be utterly amusing, and that grin I mentioned in the opening paragraph tried to break through.

Imagine the scene dear reader. At some point in the very near future, there is every possibility my former associate could be requested to enjoy the hospitality of Her Majesty in one of her fine establishments. The Judge is pointedly perusing the papers while everyone else is waiting with heightened tension for the result. And there I was trying to conceal a grin that just wouldn’t bugger off. The harder I tried to get rid of it, the funnier I found things and the wider I’d smile. At one point I actually suffered a spasm of silent laughter which, through the greatest force of will power I ever mustered, I managed to contain. And still the Beak held off on making her pronouncement. Geez Louise, I was nearly dying trying to hold it all in.

Finally, mercifully the verdict was read out. “Guilty” but no gaol term. With that the Judge rose and exited stage left, and I bolted for the door to try and get myself under control before having to offer condolences for the guilty verdict and congratulations for not serving time, which thankfully I managed.

You know, sometimes I think those who are born with a sense of humour deficiency have a much easier passage through life. They don’t end up doing inappropriate things just for the fun of it, and their lack of a sense of humour doesn’t carry the associated risk of imprisonment for surfacing at the wrong time. They’ve never bordered on being arrested for ‘smuggling a handgun’ into a court or any of the subsequent shenanigans. Jesus, it must be a boring existence.

Take it easy.