EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: "Well, it happened like this, Your Honour"

EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: "Well, it happened like this, your honour."EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: "Well, it happened like this, your honour."
EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: "Well, it happened like this, your honour."
THERE was always someone at school who could be relied upon to conjure up a good excuse for not doing their homework. Then there was always a defendant in court who could explain away the crime or assure the judge they couldn’t possibly have done it because…

Early in my “career” a guy was in the dock for drink driving, which seemed to be a relatively new offence, or at least the police had only just started to act on it as it coincided with a crackdown on speeding and the introduction of cameras that would put cash in the coffers.

The bloke had only had a pint or two of shandy before getting the wheel a few hours later, so couldn’t understand why the result of his breathalyser test had shown him as being over the limit. Then he had remembered.

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The defence solicitor told the court: “My client has recalled that he had called in on some friends at lunchtime and they had indulged in the partaking of a number of chocolates from a selection of liquers. He had not considered that the consumption of such would in anyway affect his ability to drive. In fact, he would say he had not even realised the popular at Christmas-time sweet treat contained any alcohol whatsoever and was therefore surprised to find himself four times over the limit.”

Obviously, those weren’t the exact details of the case – I can only loosely remember them – but then his excuse wasn’t exactly a true reflection of what happened on that afternoon drinking session and subsequent journey.

Rightly, he received a fine and a driving ban.

His excuse wasn’t up to scratch, you see, and neither were his connections.

About a year or so later I had moved to Devon and in the dock is the local MP, one Sir Peter Frank Hannibal Emery.

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I’ve written about this before and it still bothers me as it awakened the realisation that the “only connect” message behind EM Forster’s Howards End – he was obviously a fan of the high-brow TV quiz – was general reversed and abused.

Sir Peter was known for his extra-curricular money-making business activities and hilarious errors, but somehow remained confident and, crucially, popular.

Anyway, he attends the opening of a new tennis centre and somehow ends up in a road accident in which a fellow motorist’s car is damaged. There are questions surrounding his alcohol consumption, but these are waved aside and he ends up in court on another, lesser charge.

No problem as the chairman of the bench is a friend – they were believed to be, er, members of the same lodge – and tells SPE he doesn’t have to stand in the dock. SPE says let’s adjourn for a while, take a trip up to the scene of the alleged crime and I will show you why it can’t have been my fault. Said trip is permitted and on return the case is thrown out, much to the disgust of the tearful “victim”.

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I ring the office having interviewed the woman whose car had been damaged, but am told the story is about his vindication and will feature alongside a picture of him sitting atop the bonnet of his very posh car just to ram home the point.

My bit-part in this clear case of justice being governed by the value of connections has always bothered me – and I wondered what would have happened had I quit my job.

Not long after a reporter wrote a story, later to be proved correct, about Sir Peter’s support – he denied this – for a bypass a village in his constituency didn’t want.

Sir Peter complained. The reporter was now an ex-reporter.

That was what would have happened.

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