Courtroom Quickie

Scene: A magistrateís court. A smartly dressed man is standing bolt upright in the dock. Three magistrates are sitting on the bench. Present are court officials, police, and a few people sitting in the public gallery. The number of extras in this sketch can be reduced by skillful camera work. A solicitor is standing in front of the witness box. In the box is a police constable; he is young, nervous and sweating profusely.

Solicitor: SO CONSTABLE, YOUíRE NOW TELLING US THAT MRS BEST SAYS SHE DIDNíT ACTUALLY SEE MY CLIENT STEAL HER PURSE. RATHER THAT SHE FELT, OR THOUGHT (stressing the word íthoughtí) SHE FELT SOMEONE TOUCH HER HANDBAG. IS THAT CORRECT?

Police Constable: (Nervously) ER, YES SIR, BUT...

Solicitor: (Interrupting) AND DID YOU ACTUALLY SEE THIS ALLEGED THEFT?

Police Constable: NO SIR, BUT...

Solicitor: (Interrupting again) NO SIR, BUT...THANK YOU, CONSTABLE, THAT WILL BE ALL.

Chief Magistrate: THANK YOU, OFFICER. YOU MAY LEAVE THE WITNESS BOX.

Police Constable: (Looking relieved) YES SIR. (He leaves the box and walks straight out of the court, briskly).

Solicitor: (Addressing the bench) YOUR WORSHIPS, IN VIEW OF THE FACTS OF THIS CASE, THAT THE CHIEF PROSECUTION WITNESS CANíT EVEN BE BOTHERED TO TURN UP; THAT THE PURSE WAS NOT FOUND, ASSUMING IT EVER EXISTED IN THE FIRST PLACE; THAT THE ARRESTING OFFICER NOW SAYS THAT HE DIDNíT SEE THIS SUPPOSED THEFT AFTER ALL; THAT MY CLIENT HAS ALWAYS PROTESTED HIS INNOCENCE, AND (stressed) THAT HE IS AN EX-SERVICEMAN OF IMPECCABLE, UNQUESTIONABLE CHARACTER, AND A MAN OF SOME SUBSTANCE, HARDLY THE TYPE OF PERSON TO BECOME INVOLVED IN SOMETHING AS PETTY AS PURSE SNATCHING. IN VIEW OF ALL THESE FACTS, ON THE ONE SIDE, AND EXTREMELY WEAK CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE ON THE OTHER, IN VIEW OF ALL THIS, I WOULD ASK THAT YOUR WORSHIPS DISMISS THIS CASE FORTHWITH.

Chief Magistrate: THANK YOU, MR CLARK. (The three magistrates put their heads together and mubble incoherently. Then the Chief Magistrate turns back to the solicitor). MR CLARK, WE HAVE CONSIDERED THIS CASE CAREFULLY, AND WE HAVE COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT THERE IS NO CASE TO ANSWER. (To the defendant) MR SWANN, THE CHARGE AGAINST YOU IS DISMISSED, AND YOU LEAVE THIS COURT WITHOUT A STAIN ON YOUR CHARACTER.

Defendant: (Smiling) THANK YOU, YOUR WORSHIPS.

(The solicitor moves over to the dock, and shakes hands with his client).

Defendant: I KNEW YOUíD GET ME OFF; ITíS ALL BEEN A TERRIBLE MISTAKE.

Solicitor: I ALWAYS BELIEVED IN YOUR INNOCENCE, THATíS WHY. (Still shaking hands).

Defendant: (Pointing) WHOíS THAT OVER THERE?

Solicitor: (Turning) WHO?

(As the solicitor looks round, the defendant, who is still holding his right hand, swiftly picks his inside pocket with his left and shoves the manís wallet into his own trouser pocket).

Defendant: OH, NOTHING; I THOUGHT I RECOGNISED SOMEONE.

Solicitor: (Turning back and giving his hand a final shake). WELL, GOOD LUCK.

Defendant: THANK YOU; BETTER GO BACK TO THE CELLS AND PICK UP MY BRIEFCASE. GOODBYE MR CLARK. AND THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING. (With a hint of irony).

(The defendant leaves the dock via the stairway; the solicitor walks over to a plain clothes policeman who is standing at the back of the court, and proffers his hand).

Solicitor: WELL, LOOKS LIKE YOUR BOYS HAVE SLIPPED UP THIS TIME, INSPECTOR. NO HARD FEELINGS?

Police Officer: (Shaking his hand) OF COURSE NOT, MR CLARK; WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES.

(End).

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