Alicia in Wonderland


Alicia in Wonderland or Their Day in Court


Oh dear, Oh dear I shall be late!' No, not the White Rabbit of Alice's recollections but me arriving in the High Court. This was the first day of the Judicial Review, laid down for four days, into our Government's decision not to have a Public Enquiry into arguably the most dramatic happening since the Second World War.


Having enquired at the desk and been told Court 2, I arrived to find to my surprise, the door firmly locked and the words in camera' affixed. Looking round with clearly enough astonishment on my face, a bewigged gent standing nearby, enquired which court I was after.  Oh Foot and Mouth', he stated, That's next door!' and directed me to a narrow winding stone staircase. Although relieved that the secrecy madness had not completely taken over, I staggered round and ever upwards. It did cross my mind that this could be a Defra plot for interested parties like myself, to fall to their untimely deaths in the manner planned by Uncle Ebenezer for his nephew in Kidnapped.'


Up in the Gods were a goodly collection, some I knew, some I recognised and some were complete strangers. Except for those in the very front row, none had a view of the QC on his feet, and being able to hear what he said was clearly not part of the intended proceedings. Later, I was in the well of the Court, but it was still extremely difficult to hear all that was said. (This is the High Court'. The Royal Courts of Justice'. The highest Court in the land, other than the House of Lords, yet no proper provision is made for the public to know what is going on in the form of any paperwork and no-one is given the courtesy of being able to hear properly.)

However, we could all hear Lord Justice Simon Brown, and what was really worrying at this early stage, was the seeming scorn with which he parried any legal points that the poor unfortunate QC in front of him was attempting to make.


In fact there were two judges, Lord Justice Simon Brown who was apparently in charge and then it seems an also ran Mr Justice Scott Baker. The latter's role appeared to correspond to another character from Alice', the dormouse at the Mad Hatter's tea party. Like him, from time to time, over the course of the four days, Mr Justice Scott Baker woke up and asked a question - some of these unscheduled interruptions appearing to be a further annoyance to Lord Justice Simon Brown.


His Lordship's obsession with time was exasperating to the point of rudeness. Despite being set down for four days, I cannot remember how many times he asked the lawyers how much longer they thought they needed. Thus, coolly, making it quite clear to the assembled audience that the whole thing was a foregone conclusion.


Instead of getting on and letting the QC's say what they needed to say, much time was taken up in the proceedings by His Lordship forcing them to try and estimate how long they thought their submissions would be likely to take, then, congratulating them in a jokey way, if they managed to hit the target - like some lighthearted party game. Not only did this slow things down instead of the supposed purpose of speeding them up, but it acted as a most effective disruptive measure to those presenting their cases. Had it been attempted by the opposition, one might have thought it an infuriating but clever tactical move, and would have expected it to be jumped on by any fair-minded judge.


Much of His Lordship's tone of voice when stating or querying a QC's point, and some of his spur of the moment arguments and justifications against their claims,

would have made Mr Mugabe happy to employ him. His yawning, innumerable and overt glances at the large clock on the courtroom wall, and general body language exuded ill manners and boredom to all those present in the court. Any fleeting hope one might have had that he just had an unfortunate manner, or was acting as Devil's advocate and would treat the other side equally badly, was shattered when the Attorney General got to his feet. The atmosphere from the Bench then turned to one of obsequious cronyism.


Had I been one of those putting up thousands of hard earned pounds for their cases to be heard fairly and properly, I am sure I would have suffered considerable mental anguish watching that particular Judge and his consort in action.


As a mere spectator with no knowledge of the etiquette or ramifications of the court I speak as I find. That is to say I found it spine chillingly wanting.