Thursday, 29 October 2015

Supreme Court: joint enterprise with the Privy Council

Today's Supreme Court hearing involves two murders but the procedural calm helps to alleviate tension. The usher has made sure that families with opposing interests are seated apart. A man next to me drops off for a while, snoring gently. This is not fair on counsel who are firing on all cylinders. Tip to counsel: I wouldn't refer to the bench constantly as 'my lords'. At one point Lady Hale makes emphatic use of a stapler.

Hoods in the public seats
For the first time, the Supreme Court and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council are sitting together. They are hearing two linked appeals, R v Jogee and Ruddock v The Queen (Jamaica), involving the controversial principle of joint enterprise - can someone who incites murder be guilty of it? Echoing in my head are the words 'Let him have it' from the notorious trial of Derek Bentley (hanged then pardoned).

If a potential death penalty had been involved I wouldn't be here, but I checked the case details on the court's website beforehand. I'd been startled when I discovered that the JCPC hears appeals from jurisdictions which carry out capital punishment - as does Jamaica - although the court would never sanction such a penalty.

Four Supreme Court justices are accompanied today by the Lord Chief Justice, marking the significance of these criminal appeals. 

The Supreme Court flag is joined by the Jamaican flag. As a spotter, I wonder if the oval JCPC rug with the royal crest (Honi soit qui mal y pense) has been moved to court 1 - the largest court, being used for today's packed-out hearing - from court 3 where it normally lies. The answer is no, because another JCPC case is being heard today in court 3. (The role of the JCPC is technically to advise the monarch, hence the crest. And the mysteries of the Privy Council are explained in a new book: By Royal Appointment: Tales from the Privy Council.)

I'm normally near the front, floating on a lagoon of dark suits, but today I'm at the back, giving ground to the crowd. I've just got back from Venice and my head is full of hectic colour and Renaissance paintings of near-naked bodies, not appropriate for today's sober outing.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Peril in Venice

Screaming pope in Cannaregio
Venice. Don't ask me. Read up on it. Look at the things to look at.‎ And tell them where to shove their selfie sticks. 

Venice is sinking along with its property prices but I'm a lightweight. I don't make a difference.  

Top online tip for tourists: 'The floating landing stage is not the vaporetto.‎'  

The Italian Renaissance all-comers free-style match at the Accademia is won by the Bellini family.  

The Madonna con il Bambino (workshop of Piero della Francesca) at the Palazzo Cini, with its translucent cool poise, reminds me of the polished, pallid cross-section of a fossilised waterborne thing floating through eternity which I've just seen in the Museo di Storia Naturale - a tendrilly blob which might have had a single impulse, genesis. Wish I'd taken a photo.

The talented blogger KnitOxford‎ sends me someone else's clever post about designing a jumper based on the Doge's palace. 

Why not knit the Grand Canal with intarsia gondole and crocheted palazzo edges? It would make a nice scarf.

Members of a watercolour class

I get lost and end up stuck in the appalling Rialto crowds and tat. I become one of the people who annoy me by clogging the arteries of my Portobello home ground. 

I'm not here to draw but on the last night I sit by the Grand Canal as the damp chill rises, eat a zabaglione-stuffed choux bun and have a pen malfunction. 

Free the caged songbirds, you bastards!

Time for Italian Hours by Henry James:

Venetian life, in the large old sense, has long since come to an end, and the essential present character of the most melancholy of cities resides simply in its being the most beautiful of tombs. Nowhere else has the past been laid to rest with such tenderness, such a sadness of resignation and remembrance. Nowhere else is the present so alien, so discontinuous, so like a crowd in a cemetery without garlands for the graves....

...It is a fact that almost every one interesting, appealing, melancholy, memorable, odd, seems at one time or another, after many days and much life, to have gravitated to Venice by a happy instinct, settling in it and treating it, cherishing it, as a sort of repository of consolations; all of which to-day, for the conscious mind, is mixed with its air and constitutes its unwritten history. The deposed, the defeated, the disenchanted, the wounded, or even only the bored, have seemed to find there something that no other place could give. But such people came for themselves, as we seem to see them—only with the egotism of their grievances and the vanity of their hopes...

Left: La Meditazione or La Malinconia, Domenico Fetti (or followers), c.1618, Accademia. Is the version in the Louvre the first or second?

...the very vulgarest rubbish in all the modern market...

...It is possible to dislike Venice, and to entertain the sentiment in a responsible and intelligent manner. There are travellers who think the place odious, and those who are not of this opinion often find themselves wishing that the others were only more numerous. 

Incoronazione della virgine, Andrea di Bartolo, Ca' d'Oro

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

In court with the Naked Rambler

[Note: you’ll see that I’m not drawing the characters, just casting them from Spotlight.]

Someone has left a startling amount of male and female imagery lying around outside Winchester Crown Court. 

It's a bracing reminder that we're here because of the Naked Rambler's genitalia and buttocks, frequent sightings of which have excited magistrates' opprobrium to such a degree that he now has his own special ASBO which leads with lumpen logic to a potential infinity of jury trials - this is his fourth - and custodial sentences.

'Prometheus', Gustave Moreau, 1868

He’s a huge burden on the taxpayer: a one-man Trident but with arguably less deterrent effect.

Before the jury are admitted, The Naked Rambler aka Steve (Jim Dale) is summoned from the deep. 

I hear shackles rattling à la Marley’s ghost - surely he isn’t chained? The usher assures me that it's the jangle of the accompanying official’s keys to the cells. But later I’m told that, when out of sight, he’s in handcuffs.

Steve must have been wearing clothes occasionally - his forearms and neck are darker than his bony chest and shoulders. He is thinner and rangier than the last time I saw him, in August; his beard is on the march again. 

From my viewpoint, only his top half is visible. In the dock he is shielded by a wooden screen below, glass above. He gazes up to heaven like a grizzled terrier or leans forward, straining to hear, his nose against the glass. 

He rubs off the condensation from his breath and a fragment of Yeats, writing about Keats, comes to mind:

I see a schoolboy when I think of him,
With face and nose pressed to a sweet-shop window,
For certainly he sank into his grave
His senses and his heart unsatisfied

Hmn, a bit dark for Steve, but it’s there.

To my mind, the only person truly naked in this court is barrister Matthew Scott (Tim Piggott-Smith), who has been Steve’s loyal brief in the past.

Inaccurately billed as 'leading QC' on the front page of the latest Sunday Times, Scott is nevertheless top man - nobly standing on the sidelines as an unofficial amicus curiae without brief, wig, robe or ability to raise an invoice, because Steve wishes to represent himself. But that’s impossible if you aren't allowed in court at the same time as the jury. Steve won’t promise to remain seated - with his genitals out of the jury’s sight - so he is sent back to the cells.

Prosecuting counsel: ‘Mr Gough does have a wish often to stand up.’

Judge: ‘We can’t ask a prison officer to chain his legs to the floor.’

A Police Community Support Officer (Billie Piper) is looking after cellophane packets containing a pale grey marl top and tracksuit bottoms, ready for Steve to pop on if he relents.

Steve when at liberty

During one of the longueurs triggered by attempts to fit Steve’s caprice into court procedure, Scott asks his pupil (whose duties may not have been explained adequately at interview) to stand fully clothed in the witness box, then in the dock, ‎and scrutinises him to assess whether the offending genitalia really could be seen by the jury. Then Steve himself is summoned back to the dock for the same exercise. When Steve stands up, ‘The top of the pubic hair is visible, my lord.’

Judge love

The judge (Timothy West elided with Ronnie Barker) is humane and authoritative. He is particularly considerate towards Scott and expresses profuse gratitude: to represent this, in my notebook, I sketch a heart and a flower, then realise with horror that I have drawn in the court, my biggest fear as it’s illegal to do so.

It’s tempting to glamorise Steve as Joan of Arc or Peter Grimes or Job (‘Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither’) but that would be false.

I won’t regale you with Steve’s Fotherington-Thomas comments about the human body because I think they are irrelevant. I spend a lot of time drawing people who are naked as models or performers. Whether professional or enthusiastic amateurs, they embrace discipline and stick up notices on doors to the outside world saying NO NUDITY BEYOND THIS DOOR.

Steve hasn’t found the door. He isn’t even looking for it. His struggle is not concerned with some right to be naked in Asda, but with an eccentric compulsion to challenge authority.

He is using nudity as a figleaf.‎

‘The arguments against me have no foundation,’ he says.

The judge questions his intransigence: ‘Do you think something is going to change in your lifetime?’
‘Probably not.’
‘You’ll just get older and colder?’

In the court cafeteria, the clock has stopped. 

Steve is remanded in custody awaiting a psychiatric report and sentencing.


Monday, 12 October 2015


I did some drawings for a collection of other people's words to be published by the end of the year.

Not all my drawings made the art director's cut so I'm parking the rejects here, with minimal explanation.

This one is after a painting in the National Gallery, Apollo and Daphne by Piero Del Pollaiuolo, circa 1470-80. I'm not expecting everyone to know the original or to care why I gave it Charlotte Proudman's hairdo. It's based on a Greek myth. Apollo's pursuit of Daphne was thwarted when she turned into a bay tree, Laurus nobilis.

Make up your own story for this one...

...and for this...

For this one I bought an ice cream from McDonald's and got change for a pound.

After drawing it - or what was left after I'd carried it home in the rain - I tried to dispose of the remains. The gluey off-white sludge sulked in the waste disposal. I held the truncated cone under the tap: it remained coherent, expanded and gave me a cold floppy handshake so I strangled out the water and shoved it in the bin along with the flake.

I tried another version of this using a hazard warning cone. Look, I'm not saying all these drawings were of usable quality or anything. Sometimes you need other people to warn you.
 This is a victim:
I am not drawing puzzles to be solved, but Seven Types of Ambiguity by William Empson is in my current reading pile. Yeah I know, all that stuff I should have read decades ago.

I don't want all drawings - mine or anyone else's - to have the instant clarity of 'CAUTION - WET FLOOR'. Nor do I expect even that message to be without veils of ambiguity.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Supreme Court: legal high

Donald Trump, who breeze-proofs his hair with a baseball cap, is taking on a proposed wind farm near his golf club in Scotland. But banish thoughts of Quixotic flailing at windmills: today's hearing is sharply focused on i) the correct construction of the Electricity Act 1989, ss36, 38 and Schedule 9 (3) (1); ii) whether condition 14 attached to the consent for the wind farm was so imprecise, void for uncertainty and unenforceable that it vitiated the s36 consent.

Void for uncertainty. Yup, that's me.

A friend who happens to be passing drops in. A top pensions lawyer, recently retired, he is fascinated. 'Maybe I should have done planning law,' he muses afterwards. 'All those appeals...' It's his first time in the Supreme Court. For solicitors, keeping their clients out of here is a badge of success.

He helpfully points out the socks of the solicitor in front of us. They say THURSDAY.

A journalist says that watching me draw is more interesting than the case. I don't agree. Too much dithering and blank staring going on. Which reminds me...

Last July, a judge in Northern Ireland ordered a teenager who'd been bailed on charges relating to public order offences to draw him in court. Apparently the youth liked art.

This order was later withdrawn (possibly because drawing in that court is illegal), but what disturbed me most was the judge's rider about behaviour while sketching: 'If you look stoned, you will be arrested and remanded in immediate custody.'

When I am drawing, I must look stoned out of my mind. This is due to varifocals, concentration, lack of inspiration, the voices in my head, fear of committing a public order offence, and fantasies about cake. Certain learned counsel have a mild hallucinatory effect as well.

Have you noticed how the flowers on the carpet keep moving around? It was designed by the pop artist Sir Peter Blake, who also designed the Sgt Pepper album cover. I mean, asking for trouble.

And did you know that if you stare long enough at the Supreme Court carpet it spells out 'Paul McCartney is dead'? That will be understood by my older reader.

Trump International Golf Club Scotland Limited and another v The Scottish Ministers (Scotland)