Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Supreme Court art: what is a terrorist?


I arrive early but they've already started - what's happening? It's Lord Hope's valediction: he is retiring today. Grandchildren and a teddy bear are in the front row.

A speaker points out that, for counsel, appearing in the Supreme Court can be 'among the most alarming and potentially intimidating' of experiences (and later today the judges do make counsel's ears go pink).

Lord Hope does not look in urgent need of retirement. He ruminates: 'Ten minutes from time you're extracted from the maul by the referee and shown the red card...I do regret this is all over.'

After amiable speeches, the crowd departs and the continuing echo of 9/11 is analysed in legal abstraction. In R v Gul, does the Terrorism Act 2000 catch military attacks by a non-state armed group on state or inter-governmental organisation armed forces in a non-international armed conflict? Be careful what you upload on YouTube.

Lady Hale enquires into the logic of the argument. 'So why can the Prime Minister not be stopped and searched by the police?'

Had any activists been in court, there would have been a rafter-rending cheer. I think of the armed police outside Tony Blair's house in Connaught Square. And who parked the red sports car with the number plate 1 RAQ there?

Rootling quietly in my art bag, I disturb the kitchen timer with which I time life-class poses. The movement makes it start ticking rapidly, like the heart of a shrew. I can't turn it off. The only thing about my person with adequate sound insulating properties is my person. I sit on the timer, feeling like the crocodile in Peter Pan.

In the cafĂ©, counsel snap up souvenirs at the till with their snacks. One buys two pens, a china mug and a Christmas tree bauble (the cashier gently takes it out of its box and inspects it in her palm, as my mother would examine each egg in a box before buying it).

Perched by the window outside Court 1, where you used to be able to watch the late Brian Haw protesting from his Parliament Square complex, I speed-draw Westminster Abbey.

An aeroplane crosses the view. I should have drawn it, to commemorate the queasy shock of seeing one in the sky after the temporary flight ban was lifted in 2001.


A generality of soft human beings is wafting around. How can you protect people from people?

More pictures if you scroll down.




Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Supreme Court art: crash

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a...

A solicitor pulls something out of his pocket and a card bearing the Mercedes-Benz logo flutters to the carpet.

The imperative to drive overrides common sense. We're here because of a car crash.

I was once on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Old Bailey. Some people in the group with untroubled consciences sprang up into the dock and giggled. Not me. That space is not to be taken lightly. There but for the grace of God go I together with anyone else who drives what statute calls 'a mechanically propelled vehicle'.

I've had a bad morning. Shouting at my computer. Behaving badly. So I didn't deserve a treat but - WIGS!!

Most Supreme Court hearings are not robed but today counsel have a range of headgear from the neat, pearly and optimistic to the gnarled, grizzled and patinated.

R v Hughes is a dark tale. When an unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured person drives faultlessly, does he or she commit an offence under section 3ZB of the Road Traffic Act 1988 if the deceased caused the accident? Mr Dickinson took a bend on the wrong side of the road under the influence of heroin, methadone, benzodiazepine and other unprescribed additives, laced with lack of sleep. He died after his car was hit by Mr Hughes's van. Mr Hughes was uninsured and driving without a full licence.

Lawyers, not logicians or vengeful furies, are deciding the answer. During the arguments a hypothetical case keeps jumping off a motorway bridge in slow motion, his demise considered at various stages of his fall and impact.

Time passes swiftly. Lunch is an eventful New York deli-style beef pastrami and Monterey Jack cheese sandwich and a Kit-Kat. In the bright white cafe, three robed barristers settle like exotic birds around a solicitor in blue and pink checked socks. One of them has a eureka moment: 'The answer is this!'

The gown of the youngest member of the team brushes my arm as she goes past.

Talking of wigs, I once proposed to illustrate a law firm's history with this engraving [right] by Hogarth, which dates from around the time of the firm's foundation.

The senior partner was aghast: 'We mustn't offend the bench!'

That was in 1996.


Coda:
This morning, the cabby asks why I'm going to the Supreme Court.
'To draw it.'
'Ah, I had one of them in the back of the cab. She told me all about it. There are three of you, aren't there?'
'I'm not one of them,' I say. 'They do it properly. Julia, Priscilla, Elizabeth.'
Er, I do it my way.
'I'll remember their names,' he says.

More pictures if you scroll down, including a few attempts at Lord Kerr, but none of them keeps still.