Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Supreme Court - Rembrandt and part-time judges' pensions

The panel of judges
'Have you got a knife in your bag, madam?'

The X-ray in the Supreme Court picks up the Swiss Army key fob which I forgot to leave at home.
John Cavanagh QC,
11 King's Bench Walk,
on his feet
John Cavanagh QC

O'Brien v Ministry of Justice is about judges' pensions. Dermod O'Brien, a retired Crown Court Recorder whose work was counted as part-time, is alleging discrimination. A recently retired immigration judge watches intently: a favourable outcome could be retrospective.

Ian Rogers,
Monckton Chambers
Law students file in. They are of the generation which says 'awesome' a lot. Why do so many of the people in the public seats exhibit something like awe? Do people not go to cathedrals any more? Or is it panic - in the original meaning of the word, sensing the presence of the god Pan, or rather the presence of an inexorable justice system? An implacable god requiring sacrifice if people get some code of living wrong?

A few of the girl students flick and preen but attention is not on them: it's on the clock, as it has been all morning. The students have decades before them. Counsel has two minutes left to bang in his remaining points, like nails.

Postcards are on sale at the till. I buy a team photo of the judges. I think of how Rembrandt exploded the conventional group portrait with The Night Watch.

Rembrandt's The Night Watch

Several storeys above the café is a spotless glass roof. So the Supreme Court is protected by something immaculate, incorruptible. The cynic will say this is fanciful, that there is an obsessive-compulsive clean-up squad or a pigeon-zapping force field. But today it is without blemish. I'm told that the glass will take a body's weight.

And  now I have to do a drawing which is going to be looked at more keenly than the others. One of the security staff has offered himself as a sitter.

This has got to work in the watchful eyes of the whole security team. Word of mouth could destroy me here.

I'm lonely. I haven't got long - their shift pattern is relentless. Look, I never said I was Rembrandt. I just draw in society.

One of my sitter's colleagues comes over to look.

'If this was made into a poster the police would arrest you, man.'
Robin Allen QC,

I get my knife back.

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