September 5th, 2007
The second case I watched was a serious case of cocaine smuggling. An innocent-looking, young Asian girl was sitting in the dock with a translator whose voice continually droned quietly through the speakers next to the Public Gallery. A long time was spent examining her travel documents and her itinerary, which started in Singapore, and ended at Heathrow, via Nairobi. An alert official had found her hand luggage to weigh 16 kilograms full, and 7 kilograms empty. Hence the find. As in the first case, I was struck by how young both counsel seemed and how deeply courteous was the judge to everyone. This time it was an elderly gent on the bench – the essence of aristocratic good breeding. I haven’t heard such exquisite English spoken since the last time I watched an episode of Jeeves. At one point the suitcase was shown to the jury in a plastic bag and the judge explained that any jury member could examine the case if they wanted, but he must warn them that the contents could be conducive to cancer and they would have to wear gloves. No-one took up the offer. Again everyone took lots of notes and the jury was kept busy with their bundles of photocopies of documents and statements that had to be referred to. Once the judge lost his place and needed help. That case adjourned for lunch and I went for a quick look at the awe-inspiring St.Paul’s cathedral which is just round the corner. That’s the brilliant thing about London - you find your way around best by walking. NB. Have a comfortable pair of shoes. Don’t consult your A - Z too publicly though, or you will have every second lost tourist accosting you begging for directions. My best was the year my son and his girlfriend lived south of the river. I got on the bus just outside their flat, sat upstairs at the front with its panoramic view as we crossed the river and got off at the terminus - just outside the British Museum. I must have been the only visitor bundled up in scarf, gloves and overcoat inside the building. Everyone else left their outer garments with the smiling cloakroom attendant but it must be remembered that I live in South Africa where everyone you know has been burgled and we just don’t trust any public place.