Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

reason barristers whose practices lie in the criminal courts usually prefer to be made serjeants-at-law rather than to be advanced to the higher but (to them) less lucrative dignity of a Queen's Counsel.

But see, Rusticus, the grand jury are returning into court with a true bill against Jane Smith for larceny. Put up Jane Smith,' cries the Clerk of Arraigns, and in a few moments Jane Smith (an innocent enough looking girl of seventeen or eighteen years of age) appears in the prisoner's dock. Jane Smith,' says the Clerk of Arraigns, addressing the prisoner, 'there is an indictment against you, for that you on the seventh day of December last, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one, did feloniously steal, take, and carry away one purse, the goods and chattels of one Giles Chawbacon, against the peace of our Lady the Queen, Her Crown, and dignity. There is a second count in the indictment charging you with receiving the said purse, well knowing it to have been stolen. How say you, Jane Smith, are you guilty or not guilty?'

'Not guilty,' responds the prisoner, in a faint voice half-choked by a very effective sob. In her hand, Jane Smith, you observe, Rusticus, holds something wrapped up in paper, and at the sight thereof you remark that a positive thrill runs

through the bewigged figures before us.

Do you

ask me why? Know then Rusticus that, although according to bar etiquette, a barrister can ordinarily take a fee from a client only through the medium of a solicitor, yet a relaxation of this rule is permitted in criminal cases. It often happens that although prisoners are destitute of funds wherewith to fee solicitors to prepare briefs for their defence, yet they are able to scrape together a solitary guinea wherewith to retain a counsel to defend them. In cases where this happens, a barrister is allowed by the etiquette of his profession to accept a fee to defend,' direct from the prisoner in the dock. Defence cases of this kind are therefore technically known as 'dockers.' After this explanation you will, I hope, Rusticus, be able to understand the cause of that thrill of expectation which you noticed a moment ago to run through most of the counsel in court. In her hand, wrapped up in paper, Jane Smith holds a guinea, and she is anxious to secure the services of a barrister to defend her on the charge of pocket-picking, of which she now stands arraigned.

Attracted possibly by the imposing appearance of Mr. Bullywell, she requests one of the policemen to hand her guinea to him. Mr. Bullywell, who has apparently been in a state of profound abstrac

tion ever since Jane Smith appeared in the dock, gives, you observe, quite a dramatic start of surprise upon discovering that his services are desired by the prisoner; whilst upon the other hand you notice that the countenances of Mr. Bullywell's learned friends Mr. Scowler and Mr. Screwham, assume an expression of the deepest gloom. So. annoyed in fact is Scowler at losing Jane Smith's guinea, that he vents his rage by declaring in a loud whisper to Screwham (his comrade in misfortune) that it's no wonder Bullywell has just got that "docker," for he "squares" every turnkey in Newgate,'-and thereby induces the turnkeys to recommend the prisoners to get him to defend them!

No sooner, you see Rusticus, does Mr. Bullywell receive the prisoner's fee, than he rises and loudly informs 'his ludship' of the fact that he has just been retained to defend Jane Smith—a circumstance which, seeing that it will probably protract the trial at least two hours, cannot fail to be peculiarly gratifying to his lordship.

Proclamation is next made to the prisoner that 'the twelve jurymen, whose names' the clerk of arraigns will now read over,' are the jurymen by whom you, Jane Smith will be tried, and if you, the said Jane Smith, have any objection to them or any of them, you must make it when they come

to the book to be sworn, and before they are sworn, and you will be heard.' No objection being made to any of the jurymen, the twelve good men and true who are to try Jane Smith, are speedily marshalled into the jury-box. The clerk of arraigns then proceeds to (as it is technically termed) 'give the prisoner in charge' to the jury by reading the indictment over to them, adding at the end the words 'to this indictment the prisoner has pleaded not guilty. You will hear the evidence, gentlemen, and decide.'

[ocr errors]

Thereupon rises Mr. Howler, the counsel for the prosecution, and proceeds to state, with a great deal of unnecessary detail-for Howler loves to hear himself talk-the case against the prisoner. The prosecutor in the case, it appears from Mr. Howler's opening speech, is Mr. Giles Chawbacon, a farmer residing in Hertfordshire. Mr. Chaw

bacon had come up to town to attend the cattle show, and having seen it, he had afterwards-'like a gallant gay Lothario from the country, gentlemen,' interpolates Howler with a hideous leer at the jury -gone to the Acropolis Music Hall. When the performances there were over he was making his way out of the building when he fancied he felt a hand in his pocket, and the next moment he discovered that his purse was gone. Turning round

he seized hold of the prisoner (whose hand he fancied that he had felt in his pocket), and charged her with having stolen it. The purse was not, however, found upon the prisoner when she was searched at the police station. Mr. Bullywell (in the interests of the prisoner) here nods emphatically to the jury to direct their attention to this last, of course, highly favourable circumstance for his client. Mr. Howler happening to observe Mr. Bullywell's nod, an interesting passage-at-arms at once takes place between the two learned counsel. I will thank my learned friend,' remarks Mr. Howler in a loud and angry tone, 'not to make any signs to the jury whilst I am addressing them.' Old Bullywell, who is a knowing bird, looks slyly at the jury, and, without rising from his seat, replies, 'I can quite understand and so, no doubt, can you, gentlemen -the reason of my learned friend's annoyance.' Hereupon one or two of the jury grin approvingly at old Bullywell, who, upon his part, responds by affectionately leering back at them.

'Yes, gentlemen, I was saying,' resumes Mr. Howler, 'when I was so rudely interrupted by my learned friend'-it is curious by the way to notice, Rusticus, how the members of the Old Bailey Bar who are notoriously the most ignorant men in their profession are always scrupulously particular

« AnteriorContinuar »