A friend tells me (one should always acknowledge one's debts, even if one has no intention or means of paying them off) that John Mortimer's creation Rumpole of the Bailey considered Uxbridge Magistrates' Court to be the inner circle of hell.
Mortimer never resisted having a dig at it in all of his stories. It was a graveyard of careers, was one of the accusations he made.
Now, he meant of legal careers, but that can't be so (as I would not say anything against today's judge). But it might well mean a graveyard of political careers.
Yes, I did schlep all the way to Uxbridge this morning to attend the court hearing of Brian Coleman, charged with assault by beating and driving without reasonable care.
Barnet Eye has posted a report of this morning's events, and the local papers - Times series, Barnet Press - have reports already, so I won't repeat details, except to say that Coleman pleaded 'NoT guilty' to both charges.
His lawyer, a Mr Nigel Richardson, a rather mild-mannered man who looked more like a nervous undertaker than a lawyer, didn't strike me as being very well prepared. He seemed, however, to be a close friend of Coleman, and so perhaps that is why he gets the jobs of representing him.
I doubt my report would differ from other people's except in small details - so I had better make my small details count! I am indulging myself with the sort of headline that local newspaper subs can only dream of writing, and a very silly courtroom sketch (bottom, artist: Anon) made of the accused - before he entered the court. In fact, we could only watch the back of his head throughout. (My, that must be an uncomfortable feeling, knowing that ill-wishers are at the back of you, watching you, while you cannot see them.)
We got up very early to drive to the court, fearing that it would be standing room only in the public gallery. But the decision to move the case to Uxbridge did play in Coleman's favour. The public gallery that seats only 27 was only half-full, with local journalists and Barnet residents come to witness Coleman's discomfiture.
We had given Coleman a nasty moment earlier as he arrived up the stairs to find us in the waiting area: the mad, bad and two old hags. He looked taken aback to find that anyone had made the journey - really, what did he expect?
Inside the public gallery there was some awkwardness, with people trying to gauge which party the other onlookers were in: bride or groom?
While a set of burly blokes in biker gear played their cards very close to their chest, it was pretty clear that they were not Friends of Brian Coleman. The most intriguing spectators were a modest-looking, middle-aged couple who, again, were circumspect, but gave it away that they had waited a long time to see something like this happen.
One can only imagine how many people Coleman has crossed or upset down the years who are enjoying this moment of schadenfraude, even if only vicariously, if they could not be there in person.
The full hearing will be on Wednesday 6 February 2013 in the morning. If you can book the day off, and want to make the journey to the inner circle of hell, sorry, Uxbridge Magistrates, arrive at 9.30am for 10am. The session is expected to last up to four hours.
The judge from today, district judge Deborah Wright, will hear the case. Be aware, she keeps a strict courtroom. Strictly no sniggering at the back - and I really mean that!
|The accused, in characteristically contrite mood.|
P.S. It pays to read other people's blogs - as I said, acknowledge your debts. Roger T explains that the biker blokes were from the 'No to mobile payments' (for parking) campaign.
P.P.S. Seeing that I am likely to get a few more hits than usual on my blog today, I might as well also ask you, gentle readers, to sign this petition calling for Barnet residents to be allowed a say in whether 70% of their services are privatised (Brian Coleman had a hand in this policy): http://petitions.barnet.gov.uk/StopOneBarnet/. Thank you.