Tuesday 21 December 2010

Geordies lead the world in judging

Say what you like about the North East, we certainly know our stuff when it comes to the business of judging.

From the late Lord Chief Justice Taylor in the High Court to the nation’s sweetheart Cheryl Cole on The X Factor, Geordies have repeatedly proved their ability to weigh the evidence and come to the right conclusion. Or a conclusion, at any rate, in the case of the TV talent show.

Nor is this by any means a new phenomenon. The two Royal Grammar School educated Scott brothers, sons of a Newcastle coal merchant, both became distinguished judges, and were raised to the peerage in the nineteenth century as Lords Stowell and Eldon – the latter becoming famous as one of England’s longest-serving and most reactionary Lord Chancellors.

The great Eldon. Worth it? How dare you, sir?

Let us pause to wonder just how long it will be before Cheryl has a street full of ethnic eateries or a shopping centre named after her.

Peter Cook’s famous sketch in which he lamented that he had to become a coal miner rather than a judge because he “never had the Latin for the judging” has clearly been overtaken by events. Which is handy given both the limited opportunities for mining in today’s North East and Cook’s astute observation that “I would much prefer to be a judge than a coal miner because of the absence of falling coal.”

There were certainly no witty classical allusions in the quotes attributed last week to the latest addition to the pantheon of Northumbrian judicial greatness, Judge Beatrice Bolton of Rothbury, after her conviction at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court for failing to control her dangerous dog.

Judge Beatrice. Worth it? F*** off!

In fact, she used precisely the words that so often spring to mind when her more senior colleagues make pronouncements involving “human rights”, for example when they conclude that it is not possible to deport someone who has, say, knifed a headmaster to death or snuffed out a 12-year-old girl’s life in a hit-and-run incident.

Yes, it is highly amusing to hear a dispenser of justice reacting so badly when she experiences the rough end of it herself. Almost as perfectly ironic, in fact, as reading Julian Assange’s squeals of protest at the leaks about the nature of the sex crimes alleged against him in Sweden.

A saying popular with my parents sprang to mind: “If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.”

But it would be sad, I feel, for such an admirably plain speaker to be deprived of her position because of one inappropriate outburst. After all, some of our greatest judges have made grave mistakes and been gone on to redeem themselves. Just think of Wor Cheryl’s drunken fracas with that Guildford lavatory attendant, for a start.

Wor Cheryl. Woath it? Coase Ah am, pet.

While Lord Eldon hardly got his career off to the most promising or conventional of starts by eloping from Sandhill with the banker’s daughter Bessie Surtees.

If, God forbid, I ever find myself standing in the dock before one of Her Majesty’s justices or Simon Cowell’s talent scouts, I would be happy to think that I was appearing before a fallible human being like myself, who would see the funny side when I reacted with an outburst of choice language on being sent down or kicked off the show in favour of someone even less talented than myself.

Yes, I really believe that such people do exist, but then I believed in Santa Claus until I was eight.

In fact, I would not mind having a go at training for a crack at this judging lark myself, but for the fact that the Government has just decided to close down all our local magistrates’ courts. Given my minimal knowledge of leeks, dogs, dressed sticks and singing, and with beauty contests ruled out on the grounds of political correctness, I wonder where I should start?
 Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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