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The glory of the English Courts

We are due for some fun. The Independent has reported a most extraordinary trial going on in the High Court at the moment in which a man named Chrysler is accused of stealing more than 40,000 coat hangers from hotels round the world. He admits his guilt, but in his defence he claims that… well, perhaps it would be simpler just to bring you a brief extract from the trial. We join the case at the point where Chrysler has just taken the stand.

Counsel: What is your name?

Chrysler:> Chrysler. Arnold Chrysler.

Counsel: Is that your own name?

Chrysler: Whose name do you think it is?

Counsel: I am just asking if it is your name.

Chrysler: And I have just told you it is. Why do you doubt it?

Counsel: It is not unknown for people to give a false name in court.

Chrysler: Which court?

Counsel: This court.

Chrysler: What is the name of this court?

Counsel: This is No 5 Court.

Chrysler: No, that is the number of this court. What is the name of this court?

Counsel: It is quite immaterial what the name of this court is!

Chrysler: Then perhaps it is immaterial if Chrysler is really my name.

Counsel: No, not really, you see because…

Judge: Mr Lovelace?

Counsel: Yes, m’lud?

Judge: I think Mr Chrysler is running rings round you already. I would try a new line of attack if I were you.

Counsel: Thank you, m’lud.

Chrysler: And thank you from ME, m’lud. It’s nice to be appreciated.

Judge: Shut up, witness.

Chrysler: Willingly, m’lud. It is a pleasure to be told to shut up by you. For you, I would…

Judge: Shut up, witness. Carry on, Mr Lovelace.

Counsel: Now, Mr Chrysler, for let us assume that that is your name, you are accused of purloining in excess of 40,000 hotel coat hangers.

Chrysler: I am.

Counsel: Can you explain how this came about?

Chrysler: Yes. I had 40,000 coats which I needed to hang up.

Counsel: Is that true?

Chrysler: No.

Counsel: Then why did you say it?

Chrysler: To attempt to throw you off balance.

Counsel: Off balance?

Chrysler: Certainly. As you know, all barristers seek to undermine the confidence of any hostile witness, or defendant. Therefore it must be equally open to the witness, or defendant, to try to shake the confidence of a hostile barrister.

Counsel: On the contrary, you are not here to indulge in cut and thrust with me. You are only here to answer my questions.

Chrysler: Was that a question?

Counsel: No.

Chrysler: Then I can’t answer it.

Judge: Come on, Mr Lovelace! I think you are still being given the run-around here. You can do better than that. At least, for the sake of the English bar, I hope you can.

Counsel: Yes, m’lud. Now, Mr Chrysler, perhaps you will describe what reason you had to steal 40,000 coat hangers?

Chrysler: Is that a question?

Counsel: Yes.

Chrysler: It doesn’t sound like one. It sounds like a proposition which doesn’t believe in itself. You know, “Perhaps I will describe the reason I had to steal 40,000 coat hangers… Perhaps I won’t… Perhaps I’ll sing a little song instead…”

Judge: In fairness to Mr Lovelace, Mr Chrysler, I should remind you that barristers have an innate reluctance to frame a question as a question. Where you and I would say,”Where were you on Tuesday?”, they are more likely to say, “Perhaps you could now inform the court of your precise whereabouts on the day after that Monday?”. It isn’t, strictly, a question, and it is not graceful English but you must pretend that it is a question and then answer it, otherwise we will be here for ever. Do you understand?

Chrysler: Yes, m’lud.

Judge: Carry on, Mr Lovelace.

Counsel: Mr Chrysler, why did you steal 40,000 hotel coat hangers, knowing as you must have that hotel coat hangers are designed to be useless outside hotel wardrobes?

Chrysler: Because I build and sell wardrobes which are specially designed to take nothing but hotel coat hangers.

Sensation in court. More of this later, I hope.

Any comments, David?

16 comments to The glory of the English Courts

  • D.T.

    This is a piece of fiction, by the writer at the Independent, not a real trial transcript.

    It’s still funny though.

  • No shit. Really?! I wouldn’t have guessed.

    The category above the title and my first sentence should have been a give away….

    …And there will be another part from the same source.

  • Larry

    It’s fiction! Now I’m really disappointed with the English courts. The least they can do is entertain us.

  • D.T.

    Don’t bother, it has made the rounds in the blogosphere 2 weeks ago.

  • David Carr

    40,000 coat hangers. Good grief, it would take him decades!

    I got this sent to me by e-mail the other day and it is funny. I particularly like the fact that the Judge cannot quite decide who is more contemptible, the prosecuting counsel or the witness. I think, on balance, it’s the lawyer (but then, let’s face it, who likes lawyers?)

  • DG JOnes

    I think you protest slightly too much about realising its not true.

    But don’t worry — lots of people have made the same mistake. The fact it was written by the Independent’s resident humourist, who does something similar each week, was the give-away clue.

  • This puts me in mind of A. P. Herbert’s ‘Misleading Cases’, in which Albert Haddock runs rings around the judge and co. in a series of cases. They are laugh-out-loud funny even today.

    There’s also, of course, the work of Beachcomber (J. B. Morton) with Justice Cocklecarrot and the twelve red-bearded dwarfs (who, for trivia fans, were named Sophus Barkayo-Tong, Amaninter Axling, Farjole Merrybody, Guttergorm Guttergormpton, Badly Oronparser, Cleveland Zackhouse, Molonay Tubilderborst, Edeledel Edel, Scorpion de Rooftrouser, Listenis Youghaupt, Frums Gillygottle, and Churm Rincewind).

    I wish Kington would do more in this series.

  • D.T. : Yes, I know it has been posted before, did a search on it before I did. So what?! You may have read it but other may not. It’s funny and that is what matters.

    DG Jones: Oh, please. How can you not realise it’s fiction! No I haven’t made a mistake. If you looked before commenting you’d see it’s under humour category… That humour, as in jokes, fiction by definition. We have lots of other categories for non-fictional jokes such as the EU and politicians generally.

  • Neil

    Surely the judge being an ex-barrister himself (or similar) should have had the same problem with speaking English.

  • molly

    That is funny but I do hate courts. They are horrible places.

  • That is hilarious. Fiction or not.

  • Well, I’d bet any American readers you have – me for one – believed it, having not heard of The Independent writer, much less been aware that he writes a regular anything.

    I was taken in.
    Simply because it’s under the humour title, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fiction, a joke etc. After all, truth is stranger than fiction and often real life is what makes people laugh the hardest.

    Enjoyed it. Post the second part, please. It may have made the rounds of the blogosphere, but apparently America’s in another galaxy apparently because I’d never seen it. [Yes that it a set up line. Go to town.]

  • simon uk

    i dont suppose the third part is about anywhere?

  • simon uk

    i dont suppose the third part is about anywhere?

  • Lydia


    P.S. It really happened

  • ykudyuu


    P.S. It really happened I was there