I entered the courthouse telling the security guards manning the metal detector that there is practically nothing left to protect: “The jungle is at the door.” “We’re just doing our job” said one; I’m hearing this a lot nowadays. I got the same response from the policeman who originally arrested me, under instructions from Special Branch (Britain’s political police, under direct command from London). I went upstairs to wait to be called.
I’d continued with the law firm on the grounds, probably mistakenly, that if the CPS is to do any climbing down they would find it easier to negotiate with a lawyer than me directly. I was expecting some kind of attempt at a plea bargain but all I got was a barrister who recommended I enter a ‘not guilty’ plea, otherwise this judge in particular, he said, Judge Cracknell, is liable to remand me in custody. I quake a bit, remarking that this will deprive me of the ability to properly prepare my defence before the trial, but stick to my policy of refusing to recognize the court and enter a plea. The barrister seems quite sympathetic but it may only be that he doesn’t want the same fate to befall him as my last barrister, who was dismissed immediately before the committal proceedings. There was supposed to have been around 30 minutes available for discussion prior to the hearing but in the end there was only 5 or 10.
I return to the open waiting area and contemplate going directly to jail. Of course I’ve not yet made any preparations for this eventuality and I worry about the book orders (which are growing nicely), the websites (ditto) and all the other affairs which will be disrupted if I’m locked away. I also want certain important sections of The Tyranny of Ambiguity online before that happens. The temptation strikes to simply walk out, but that wouldn’t solve anything. If I were to flee the country I would have done so by now. Being prepared to face the music is, of course, more than can be said for the 500 craven traitor MP’s who were conspicuously absent from Parliament when the 1976 Race Act was passed.
A few minutes later I’m called (it seems like only a few moments because I’ve met someone I know, or at least knows me, and have fallen into a conversation about anthropology and the like). I’m told that the case going on is just finishing and instructed to sit at the side. The Court Usher seems inexplicably pleased to see me and I realize, more by his manner than his appearance, that he’s a Jew.
I sit at the side and take in the courtroom: it’s a case of a man being provoked by his live-in girlfriend who ended up brandishing an ornamental sword (which seems to be being handled with some delight by the prosecution) at the police. I look around for the Defendant but see no sign of him, concluding that it must be some kind of procedural hearing with the Defendant absent. Then the judge looks to the back and orders the Defendant to stand – I look again and realize with horror that what I had taken to be the back wall is actually made of glass, and the Defendant is on the other side of it. My shock is heightened by having just read Rassinier’s The Real Eichmann Trial, which features a photograph of that courtroom with Eichmann inside a glass case. That was in 1960, so we can guess where they got that idea from.
Meanwhile the man in the glass-walled dock is being given 12 months in prison. The woman who was his live-in partner, who provoked the incident in its entirety by lying to him that she had found another man, and apparently made a false statement to the police which was later retracted to boot, walks out without so much as a reprimand.
Then my turn to go into the dock; I’m searched again by a guard. Not content with putting people behind a glass wall, the bench on which I’m supposed to sit is intimidatingly close to the glass. The judge asks me if I’m Simon Sheppard – everything is relayed by speakers and microphones – and I say “Yes, and I don’t know why I’m in this box.” The prosecution says something about my not recognizing the court and my barrister utters the sum total of nine words: “I think it’s a case of rather strongly held beliefs.” The judge mumbles that he’ll treat it as a ‘not guilty’ plea, which is what he’s supposed to do anyway. He says something about a trial date in the week beginning 8th May and makes a token gesture towards obtaining assent from me but I’m too dumbfounded to reply. I’m shown out of the box and walk through the courtroom to freedom, at least for now.
So that was it, and I had a glimpse of the cells behind the dock while I was being searched. I still don’t know whether the threat of being remanded in custody was a bluff. Certainly if I were to leave my defence to lawyers and a barrister I would likely spend the trial behind a glass wall. My attitude has become that they may succeed in sending me to prison for an election leaflet but I’m going to make damn sure that they’re not allowed the pretence of doing it legally. My lawyers have been dismissed and I’m applying for a stay of hearing, to give me enough time to prepare.
After seeing the court in action I can hardly believe how corrupt they are.
10 April 2000