33 members attended for a talk by the Forum’s own Derek Clarkson whose experience as a judge always gives his contributions particular interest and authority.
He told us first about Jane Austen’s aunt Jane Leigh-Perrot, a well to do lady who was accused in 1799 of stealing white lace from a draper’s shop in Bath. To us such a case might appear a small matter in relative terms but at that time the penalty if convicted was death by hanging or 14 years transportation to Australia. Aunt Jane was imprisoned for 7 months before her case came for trial. Although she was found not guilty, rumours circulated afterwards that she might have been a kleptomaniac. The story served to illustrate the savage penal code around 1800 when 150 offences carried the death penalty. The story also reminded Derek of the sad case of the TV personality Lady Barnett who was convicted of shop-lifting in 1980. Four days later after the newspapers had given the case wide publicity she committed suicide.
Judge Clarkson went on to tell us the story of the Gartside murder case in 1947. As a Sixth-former at Pudsey Grammar School, he had attended part of the trial and it may have influenced him to go into the law as a career. Then to lighten the mood we heard some amusing anecdotes about criminals who were not very successful in their chosen profession.
Finally during questions Derek gave us an eloquent defence of the jury system. Richard Brooks gave the vote of thanks and suggested that Derek talk to us sometime about his work obtaining compensation for injured miners.
At the beginning of the meeting the Chairman announced that the invitations for the Christmas lunch would be available on 8 November.