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The Briefcase of Justice

Once upon a time, as a moderately experienced trainee solicitor, I was sent at short notice up to Cheltenham County Court to apply to set a statutory demand aside, to stop my feckless client going bankrupt. I was given a file some 6 inches thick, a copy of the Green Book and told to succeed.

With little time to prepare, I did the best I could, but the irascible District Judge was having none of my arguments and threw them all out. Dejected, I packed up all the papers, and the Green Book, into my old brown attaché case and left the Court.

This particular attaché case had been a gift from my parents when I started secondary school. I was already marked out as a girly swot, or “posh” because I did not live on the local council estate, and had somehow got away with less of a Portsmouth accent than the others.

Also, whilst my schoolfellows had the latest sportsbags or backpacks, I had a high-quality brown leather attaché case from the local cobblers. This was clearly a highly practical bag, hardwearing and capacious, but for a schoolboy it was not ideal.

It was regularly snatched from me, used to taunt me, and thrown in the road or over hedges etc. I was very relieved when I was allowed to leave it at home in favour of a sports bag instead.

It did, however, suit my new career perfectly. It was not new & shiny and so it made me look more experienced. It would also comfortably swallow an enormous amount of paper and books.

So, on the day in question, it was extremely heavy. It was of course all the heavier because I was leaving court with my tail between my legs, too.

Cheltenham County Court used to be in the middle of the pedestrianised shopping precinct. It has since been closed by the Department of Justice – and the DJ in question pensioned off.

As I made my way through the crowded shopping precinct, I was rather upset. I was annoyed that the DJ had ignored all my points and worried about what my boss would say when I got back to the office. I had plenty of experience talking to Judges and had been pretty successful in court up until this point.

This was before the days of widespread use of mobile phones, so I had not been able to report back quite so easily as one can nowadays.

However, my attention was caught by some shouting ahead of me. Two young lads came running through the precinct, with two police officers in hot pursuit. The crowds in front of me began to part to get out of their way.

I had a choice. Either I followed the crowd and moved out of the way, or I stayed put.

Hefting my attaché case, I decided that no backwards-hat merchants were going to force me to bend my footsteps away from my intended course. They came belting straight for me, looking over their shoulders at the police officers.

Thus it was that the attaché case became forevermore the briefcase of justice.

I lifted it, and swung it in front of me straight into the first oncoming yob. As the case impacted with his chest, he bounced off to my right, reeling from the blow of the Green Book and case papers.

He tumbled to the floor, and his mate promptly tripped over him. As they lay sprawled in a heap, the pursuing police apprehended them. As I had no wish to face a complaint of assault, I walked off through the crowds, but I could hear the officers expressing their thanks.

Ever since, the briefcase of justice has accompanied me to court. Case won or lost, I have always appreciated its reassuring heft in my hand.

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