Monday, 29 January 2007


It's Thursday morning last week. It's been a tense day and The Master is in trouble with pretty much everyone in the court room. No-one likes him, basically, and he's feeling it.

He's up against two QCs and the good QC (in the sense of devastatingly effective rather than in any moral sense, obviously) is fed up of The Master interrupting his questions and flow with admittedly usually rather minor quibbles. The bad QC (in the sense of charmingly ineffective) is miffed about The Master's instructing solicitors' general haplessness. The Guardian is frustrated by The Master's refusal to amend the 'threshold document'* to include some rather old and irrelevant sexual abuse claims from the 1980s.

The judge finally snaps. By this point he has absorbed with little complaint any number of case management mishaps, almost all of which brought about by mistakes or inaction on the part of The Master's instructing solicitors. Suddenly, his previously generalised vague frustration focusses in on The Master. Admittedly, The Master has been making several rather unwise jibes about the effect of previous directions given by the judge that and has also just been exposed as making a hollow threat to speak for four hours in reply to a 'no case to answer' application by the bad QC. It took a mere 30 minutes before he ran out of reply, which made it look like he was trying it on with the judge to stop the bad QC from making the application in the first place.

To my surprise, however, the judge drags me into the whole sorry mess. Other than his faithful pupil, he's been on his own in this case.

'If you don't like my Order, Mr Master, why don't you send your junior running down to the Court of Appeal again to lodge another pointless appeal?'

The Master adopts a suitable wounded, pained look and rises gradually to his feet. With a tone of voice to match his demeanour, he starts, 'It was actually someone else's appeal, I must remind Your Honour.' At this point in time, it looks like (a) The Master is seeking to defuse the situation by gently correcting the judge on a factual point -- not necessarily always going to be a winning strategy but with this judge one that ought to work -- and (b) the judge thinks I'm a junior, although not perhaps in the context in which I would ideally choose. Luckily, rather than sitting up and beaming proudly, I have already opted to keep my head down and avoid any eye contact as The Master continues, 'Although their Lordships did basically agree with all my submissions on the legal points concerning your last Order...'

I've just been away for a long weekend and I have to admit that I can't remember exactly what was said next. I believe this may be because my brain has elected to erase it from what is left of my mind for reasons of self preservation, akin to the reaction of some victims of severe trauma.

I had to slip out early to get away shortly after this incident. I'm out of chambers until Wednesday on a training course, but I just took a call from The Master with some instructions for some legal research to get done before Wednesday morning, when the case continues into a third week. He seems to be phoning pretty much every evening now.

* A threshold document is the document that sets out the local authority's case for the threshold of harm to a child being met such as to require the assumption of parental responsibility by the local authority in the best interests of the child.


Wabisabi said...

>'If you don't like my Order, Mr Master, why don't you send your junior running down to the Court of Appeal again to lodge another pointless appeal?'
>'It was actually the Guardian's appeal, I must remind Your Honour.'

Too bad you don't remember what was said next, but what the judge said there is... not nice. I once saw a similar exchange between a magistrate and Counsel. I was told afterwards by Counsel that she had previously overturned a decision by that magistrate and he has always been giving her an unreasonably difficult time whenever she appears in his court since. (Judges don't like to have their decisions overturned.) I may come to around to write about it more on my blog, but could it be, that there is some on-going personal feud between The Master and that judge?

Batgirl said...

Ooh, ow. I bet you could cut the air with a knife at that point. I don't blame you for blocking it out.