Monday, 26 May 2014

Supreme Court art: things some visitors don't know

There is plenty I don't know about the Supreme Court, but let's run through a few basics:

Your Swiss Army knife and other sharps will be well looked after during your visit.

My neighbour who helped to rescue Apollo 13 goes there just for the café.

There is no jury, no witness, no cross-examination. At hearings, the QCs and barristers don't usually wear wigs or gowns, the justices never, so you can amuse yourself by working out which suits are bespoke.

Photography is not allowed during hearings. If a dishevelled woman with leopard-print spectacle frames glares at you when you reach for your camera, thank me afterwards - I've saved you from being pounced on by an usher.

Some people experience panic (atavistically, the terrifying presence of the great god Pan) when entering a courtroom. This feeling is not confined to the barristers. There is an inexorable coded system at work here with a faint folk memory of human sacrifice.

But keep calm - we are not in America. People don't bang gavels or jump up crying: 'Objection, your honour!'

More key facts coming shortly. Meanwhile, my last visit to the court started badly when my canvas art bag was eaten by the door of a Routemaster (real Routemasters don't have doors). The hearing was brief so here's just one drawing - of George Spencer Watson's portrait in Court 1 of Sir Montagu Sharpe, who deserves more than 'Forgotten Man of Middlesex' as the subtitle of his biography.

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