I WAS once held in reserve as a character witness for a man who was charged with stealing a harness and a blinkers. I was never called because the judge upon hearing the evidence by the first witness for the defence dismissed the case.
The first witness for the defence, of course, was the man who was charged with stealing the harness and the blinkers. For many years now I have made a close study of judges. It is when they seem to be asleep that they are really on the alert. It is during times like this that they catch a witness off guard. They cast a quick glance at him, a sideways glance that cuts through tissue and bone and penetrates to the very soul.
Some people maintain that the soul is reflected in the face. Be that as it may the man accused of the theft of harness and winkers was a fine cut of a gaiscioch with a leonine head and a face of great distinction.
The judge happened to look at a time when the defendant was pouring forth his innocence with a tear in his eye.
To be born with an honest face is better than being born with a silver spoon. I know this to be a fact because some of the greatest scoundrels I ever knew had honest faces. I’m not saying that the defendant was a scoundrel. What I am saying is that he had an honest face and that it stood him in good stead. In later years, I discovered that the man in question would steal your tongue if you stuck it out in his company.
But to get away from the subject of faces and to return to witnesses. Once the glamour of being a witness once was worn off very few indeed like to play the role a second time. However, for some strange reason, you will find poor people in court more than rich people. This may be that the laws were originally made by rich people and maintained by rich people. There is a certain type of witness quite well known to me for some time who is resigned beforehand to whatever it is the law may have in store for him. This type of witness is generally a poacher who has been caught behaving peculiarly by the bank of the river.
On the day of the court sitting he will dress up in his Sunday best and head for the town well before the start of the proceedings. In town he will call to his favourite tavern where he will partake of a half one and a few pints. He will check his money and put so much into one pocket to pay his fine and his solicitor. As I said earlier he is beaten before he begins. He never wins and he does not expect to win. As a witness he stands in the dock trying not to look guilty.
He will will admit anything as long s he is left out of it quickly. In fact, he does not mind having been originally charged because a day in court means a day out. He has an excuse to dress up and go to town and in a way the law is doing him a favour.
There are some witnesses, mostly women, who are charged with abusive language and or assault of neighbours or neighbours’ children. These sit in the body of the court like greyhounds waiting to be slipped after a hare which is just about to be let loose. They can’t wait to get into the dock. However, it is a sad truth that those who are hungry for law almost always get a surfeit of it. This type of witness asked to deny or admit the use of intemperate language. Naturally, she will never admit it and she quite rightly believes that she never used such language or if she did use it, she was well entitled to use it.
She loves to hold forth from the witness box but judges are curiously unsympathetic to women who like to speak at length on the nature of their grievances. When out of the witness box and listening to her opponent’s evidence she can be extremely effective, too. She may sigh loud and long at the outrageous lies being told or she may turn her eyes heavenwards asking if there is a God there. This always for the benefit of the judge who rarely looks to see what is happening in the body of the court.
The antic, however, cut no ice with him and the only winner in cases like these are both solicitors. But women who act as witnesses in this type of litigation are well pleased with themselves. While other women like bingo and others still like bridge there is nothing to satisfy certain women but the inside of a witness box, where they can swear truthfully about criminal tendencies of their neighbours.