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This week it’s a Sussex Horror Stories Edition, with a huge range of ghoulish and terrifying campus updates: there’s trial in the dusty basement of Brighton Magistrates’ Court; a racist duke poking around; a strike; a picket; an occupation; and a gang of Hungarian sex traffickers – all on the Sussex campus, and all literally happening on the same day, Halloween 2013.
Other scary tales involve a dead man fighting for his life. Spooooooooky…. read on!
A courtroom sketch
The authorities didn’t, though, and I spent this week in the bowels of Brighton Magistrates’ Court, taking journalistic notes to report on one the protestors, Alex Cline, who was charged with ‘acting with intent to cause alarm and distress’ to Mike Weatherley, primarily by calling him a “coward” and thereby “precipitating a maelstrom of abuse and violence.”
District Judge Tanweer Ikram did not seem altogether impressed by the prosecution case. “Is the entire case built on the defendant calling an MP a coward?” he asked disdainfully. But we went ahead anyway…
The court was shown YouTube footage of the incident (I actually appear briefly at the start of the video – call me Exhibit Alef!) before the star witness, Mr Weatherley himself, appeared to describe his ordeal.
He seemed slightly out-of-place; perhaps as a backbench MP he’s more used to asking questions than to being asked.
“I came to court today wearing the same overcoat I was wearing on the day,” he announced, going on to explain how he had had to “clear various vegetables, primarily tomatoes” from it, making an error of botany which any primary-school child would have spotted immediately.
Cross-examination was the best bit, though. Not many people get the chance to watch an MP being subjected to a barrister’s hostile cross-examination, and I feel suitably privileged.
“You have a vested interest in portraying squatters in a negative light, don’t you, Mr Weatherley?” asked Owen Greenhall from Garden Court Chambers, setting the tone for a beautifully adversarial hour of verbal sparring.
After asking him a question three times and receiving no meaningful response, Greenhall became exasperated. “Mr Weatherley, I realise that you’re a politician but you’re not answering the question. Once more: after calling you a ‘coward’, did the defendant walk towards you?”
“Not physically,” Mr Weatherley admitted, after being instructed by the judge to give something approximating a ‘clear answer’.
Did he walk towards you? Not physically. Erm… perhaps spiritually, then?
In another intriguing exchange, the MP claimed to be able to see behind him.
“You were looking where you were going, weren’t you?”
“So you couldn’t see what was going on behind you?”
“Yes I could!”
“If you were looking ahead, how can you possibly be sure that my client was one of the people chasing you?”
“You can be aware of particular people following you without seeing them directly.”
Sounds like he’s wasting his talents slaving away in Parliament: his X-ray vision would surely come in handy in the SAS or at a ‘guess how many sweets in the jar’ competition.
“So, you claim that you were hit on the back by a missile?”
“I most categorically was hit by a missile.”
“Between the shoulder blades?”
“Did you see the object that hit you?”
“Of course not.” (But I thought he just said he could see behind himself? -Ed.)
“So when you say you think it was a rock, you can’t be sure.”
“I am sure.”
“How can you possibly be sure if you didn’t see it?”
“It was as hard as any rock I’ve ever been hit with.”
[Pause while everyone mulls over the connotations of this statement. Then Mr Greenhall giggles.]
“How many times have you been hit by rocks, Mr Weatherley?”
“No further questions,” said the lawyer. I will never forgive him.
Throughout this questioning, no doubt an ordeal almost as terrifying as last year’s, Weatherley resolutely looked at the judge and refused to grace Mr Greenhall with eye contact. The trial will continue on Monday 11 November.
A right royal picket
Said an equerry: “Her Majesty hasn’t had to pass a line of people not doing any work on her way to an official engagement since the State Opening of Parliament, and she was particularly keen on the Occupation – the idea of Prince Charles barricading himself into a single room until he gets what he wants is an attractive one.”
The Queen was in a particularly giving mood, having granted the press regulation Royal Charter only the evening before, so awarded further Royal Charters to Compass Catering (‘artisan baking with a contemporary twist’), IT Services (‘stability is our watchword’) and The Badger (for services to proper journalism ie. not hacking voicemails).
Don’t speak ill of the living
A man in the United States is facing a Supreme Court battle to be certified as ‘alive’, since he only contested his death certificate after the three-year time limit for lodging appeals.
Yes, this is the news from Findlay, Ohio (population 41,526, or arguably 41,527) where Donald Miller Jr. may be forced to call a character witness to testify that he isn’t dead.
Obviously I’m a little constrained in what I can report about this, since it’s still a live issue, but think it’s safe to say that there’s a fatal flaw in the city government’s case.
Putting the ‘sex’ back into ‘Sussex’
There was something rather unusual in the Brighton Argus this week:
I still think the University should have kept these services in-house and not outsourced them to shady foreign companies.
According to the article, “The building manager [of Park Village] recognised the distinct campus curtains and bedding a prostitute was sprawled across in one of the semi-naked profiles.”
When police raided the flat in question, they found “a young woman dressed provocatively sitting on a bed,” which is of course something that never happens in bona fide student accommodation.
A spokesperson for the Residential Services Department commented, in an email statement, “Sorry on tea break.”
Five of the best
- BBC News: China official suspended over pig trotter banquet bills – snouts in the trough etc…
- The Telegraph: JK Rowling denies finding Harry Potter inspiration on narwhal tusk – I’m definitely going to use the old ‘I never saw that whale tusk’ excuse next time I’m done for plagiarism.
- Guido Fawkes: Cops trying to remove Private Eye from shops – and that was even before Her Maj introduced press regulation!
- The Jewish Chronicle: Man dressed as Nazi thrown out of Asda – “Undetected item in Rhineland area.”
- The Guardian: Ten key talking points from the phone-hacking trial – one of which is the revelation that Prince Harry cheated on an essay at Sandhurst by asking an aide to “text me any info on the Iranian Embassy siege”