By our man who is no stranger to having his collar felt, Clive Washington
An everyday bloke has a brush with the long arm of the Law and discovers that serving his Queen and country is not quite as rewarding as he imagined.
I received an official-looking, beige letter last week from Her Majesty which caused me to choke on the sliver of buttered toast that was halfway to my open mouth.
My heart missed several more beats as I glimpsed the words 'Court Proceedings' at the top of the window on the envelope. Clearly, the long arm of the Law had finally caught up with me over the various parking tickets I'd torn up over the years—oops—I mean, the dog had accidentally eaten.
On opening up the envelope, it quickly became apparent that it was indeed me they were after. But my anxiety turned to elation as I realised that I would not be in the dock this time; I would be in the jury—outstanding!
Suddenly my mind was awash with visions of the courtroom drama about to unfold. I’d be sitting with the other members of the jury, maybe sporting a monocle with a pipe hanging impressively from my tight-lipped mouth, while I debated our verdict with commanding rhetoric.
Oh, I could see it all now. Heads would swivel in appreciative attention
as I shouted: "Take that man down!" in stentorian tones. "We
the jury find the defendant guilty of all charges—now hang the
bastard!" Obviously I would have to adopt a deeper and more assertive
voice when I browbeat the sentimental library assistant into submission
for having the temerity to suggest that I was not the best man to be
the foreman of the jury. "You can't handle the truth!" I would
shout at her, screwing my monocle more deeply into place to reinforce
So, I read through the paperwork. I started with the booklet which explained what could be claimed back for my expenses. The fees seemed very reasonable. They even included the price of a taxi to court. And quite right too. Surely they didn't expect me to walk to the bus stop? Not me. Not the foreman of the jury on a high profile, political scandal involving several call-girls, various restraining devices and a Cabinet minister who was no stranger to hanging around the public toilets on Hampstead Heath at two-o-clock in the morning.
I mean, ruthless asylum-seekers with striped tea-towels on their heads might want to take pot shots at me from the rooftop of the courthouse. Or mysterious men in black with suspicious bulges under their left armpits would try and bribe me on the way to court. No—a taxi would be the only option.
I wasn't quite so impressed with the other expenses Her Majesty was offering me. One could, apparently, get more if the case dragged on for several weeks and needed to be put up in an hotel, but I didn't notice a clause headed 'Hotel Mini-Bar.' That was a serious omission. I made a mental note to keep the mini-bar receipt anyway.
Naturally, I rang around and told everyone of my impending good fortune.
I even buttonholed complete strangers in the pub and waxed lyrical about
the opportunities for fame and celebrity the British Legal system offered
the man in the street. I mean, forget Big
Brother or Celebrity Love Island. Who wants to go
through all that grief and humiliation for fifteen minutes of fame?
Jury service was an altogether more up market and reliable fast-track
ticket to Celebrity Easy Street.
Whilst everyone was excited by my imminent elevation to fame and fortune,
they kept asking me: 'Are you sure they will let you do it?'
'Well I'm sure to be accepted then,' I thought smugly.
I re-read the form and cheerfully posted it. I waited...and waited,
scarcely able to contain my excitement. I finally received the reply
today. It has now been filed in the bin. I'll skip the bits about 'falsifying
information' and 'perverting the course of justice' and just give you
Maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but I took the precaution of shaving off the luxuriant beard I had been carefully grooming in anticipation of my alteration in fortune, changed my job and my address and took to wearing sunglasses, even indoors.
So there was no big court case for me. I even asked some of my friends
in the criminal underworld to find out what it would have been about
and now realise that debating the guilt or innocence of a nineteen-year-old
chav accused of nicking a packet of Lambert & Butler from a
newsagents would probably not have got me on the telly.
Story © 2005 Clive Washington. Picture and construction © 2005 utterpants.co.uk / 061005