Members of Parliament (UK) claimed £23 million in expenses last year. The age old scams have eased off, no more duck houses in their home lakes or house flipping. A lot of them though are claiming ridiculous sums for travel, overnight lodging and employing members of their family as back up staff with high wages (who checks how much work they do?).
A few years ago I had a Lord giving evidence in one of my cases. Of course we had to pick him up at his manor house in the morning. As we were passing Parliament on route to The Old Bailey he asked me to stop outside while he popped in for a few moments. Later in the day at lunchtime after a couple of gins he let out the fact that he had gone in Parliament to claim his attendance fee! I think it was £178 or thereabouts. This is typical of such people a lot of them are just disgusting.
Mentioning the Old Bailey brings back fond memories of hard battled cases, drama and many good times. It was difficult giving evidence. I think it is in number three Court in the main building that, when it’s your turn to give evidence, you climb the stairs up the podium, they start at the back then as you go round you appear to the Court. In front of you are the defendents, perhaps a gang of armed robbers, they are in the dock to the right. Opposite are their line of senior barristers (each defendant having their own representative) with junior barristers behind and Solicitors and their runners in row three. Our prosecuting Barrister is at the end. The Judge is to the left and the Jury next to him. Up in the public gallery are the defendant’s friends and family all making noises under their breath or spitting to the side. In the back of the Court are colleagues who have already given evidence, they are normally intent on every word so they can take the micky in the Police room later. At first it is almost impossible to speak, everything is in slow motion but, I suppose as in acting, the nerves gradually settle and you can anticipate where the questions are leading and even the senior barristers make mistakes and look incompetent. I was in the witness box for three days in one case it’s a great high when they get found guilty because normally we had been working on the case (and others of course) for maybe a year and we know a lot of things the Jury are not allowed to know and we are not permitted to mention.
Did you know that when hanging was acceptable (before my time) the Judge always put a black scarf on his head before telling the prisoner he was going to be taken away and hung. Initially this was because friends and family might spit at him but the tradition remained until the last hanging in the Sixties.
At the back of the Court is a door that leads into a passage where the gallows are waiting. As the prisoner walks forward there are about 12 arches that gradually get lower. The idea of this is to mentally prepare the prisoner for leaving this World. The arches are still there and when I walked through them I felt weird and nervous.