OF THE BIZARRE IN COURT
An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers
Weird's not the word for some of the wild, wonderful, rude, crude and yes, bizarre things that happen, or are apt to happen in courtrooms worldwide, if Gary Slapper's entertaining new book is anything to go by.
As Slapper, leading legal academic and Times columnist notes: "courts must often come to rational conclusions about events that would in fact be rejected by television drama producers as implausibly bizarre."
Most of the cases he cites -- indeed probably all of them -- should be classified under the `you-couldn't-make-it-up' category. Take the case of the injurious underpants, for example. Well, you could call it that, especially when it's brought to your attention that in 2002, there were 369 people seriously injured by their underpants or knickers.
Attitudes to other instances of sartorial crime seem to vary around the world and indeed in the same country, notably the United States, a rich source of `weird cases' as avid Judge Judy fans will confirm. Do not, for example, wear revealingly 'saggy' trousers in Delcambre, Louisiana, or you might end up with a $500 fine and a 6 month jail sentence.
In Flint, Michigan, though, where things are a bit more lenient, you might get off with one of the `droopy-drawers' tickets that have been issued to local people since early 2009. However, not to worry if you are holidaying in the aptly named Riviera Beach, Florida where a defendant named Mr Hart escaped conviction for a similar offence, when the judge ruled that the local law prohibiting low slung trousers was unconstitutional.
And on it goes. This little gem of a book contains chapters on everything from compensation and punishment, to love and sex -- and from judges, jurors and lawyers to pets and animals, violence and death. Food, drink and drugs, and of course, fashion, do not escape scrutiny either
Scintillating with wry humour and enlivened by personal aside and anecdote from the learned author, `Weird Cases' is more or less a compendium of the sort of `funny old world' stories that you might read in `Private Eye', except that each has been revealed in the light of day within the august precincts of a courtroom. In particular, the revelations about vexatious or loopy litigants are hilarious. What a rich trove of anecdotes for your next after-dinner speech with the legal eagles!
If you're a member of the legal fraternity, (or even if you're not) this is one jolly book and one of no small practical value too. It will certainly reassure you that even in the law - particularly in the law - `there's nowt as queer as folk'. And as Christmas will soon be upon us, this book is a gift for your more solemn legal friends with more than a touch of the bizarre in court.