Saturday, October 08, 2005

Which Hand, Your Honour?

Right, I am now gonna tell the story of the day I went to court. I sooooo wanted to bring my camera and take a pix ... because this is like a rare opportunity but I did not think the judge would take kindly to me doing a Japanese tourist routine in her court.

First, the Subordinate Court is quite big but it looks like a government school with the prerequisite beige, brown and white tiles creatively juxtaposed for a retro look which everyone is trying to forget. Except that this "school of misdemeanour" has security posts and lots of policemen trying to look dangerous. Rather like an American school I reckon. Ok, sorry ... low Columbine blow.

I am so female sometimes it's revolting. I spent the morning pondering what I should wear to court. It had to be conservative enough not to piss off the judge but also dressy enough as we had our exhibition opening cocktails that evening. I decided on a 3/4-sleeved layered lavendar knit top with a pair of slim dark grey pants. Did the usual chignon and pearl ear-rings and I was ready for tea with the Queen Mum. I was set. With my computer briefcase, my fuschia pashmina shaw and the schoolmarm look, no one would think I was associated with a Sri Lankan crime syndicate.

Going through the security checks at the courts was disappointingly uneventful. But dayum! What is with all those stairs! My court room was on the third floor and there were no escalators. I gasped in horror and circled the atrium trying to see if a flight of escalators or a lift would suddenly materialise. By now, the policemen who had given me nary a look before were starting to glance at me suspiciously. Bugger, time to suck it up and climb those damn stairs. Bloody heavy computer briefcase!

By the time I got to the 3rd floor I was a panting mess. The Bogus Copper saw me and smiling broadly escorted me to a seat. And I was left there alone to sit for about 45 mins. Deja vu. Luckily I'd bought a book on Water and Ink - fascinating read about the evolution of modern ink painting. Good thing the book was riveting or I would have been hopelessly bored.

Finally, Bogus Copper comes and gets me and takes me to a room with a table and some chairs. It's a well appointed room with poorly painted, caked up grey walls and clean but streaky grey floors and oh ...lovely, exposed grey pipes and casings. Nice. And guess what? I sat there for another 30 mins waiting. Except this time I had the Bogus Copper and an unidentified young Indian bloke in civilian clothes (wait, Bogus Copper is always in civilian clothes too) who kept smiling shyly at me so I felt obliged to smile back nervously. The smile got even more nervous when Bogus Copper decided to take off his belt. Fortunately it was just to slip his handphone case through the belt a la Phua Chu Kang. Have you ever seen an Indian Ah Beng? Wait ... that's what Phua Chu Kang really is. Wow .. epiphany!

Finally, I went into the room. It was really really empty. Kind of a circular arrangement of brown, wooden benches like an atrium. And the judge and her stenographer (is that what you call those pinch-faced females who always sit below the judge looking like they were sitting on a cactus while sucking lemons?) were seated slightly elevated from the rest. I looked for signs of a gavel but saw nothing. Another disappointment. I woke up early for this??? Sigh ...

The Deputy Prosecutor is a rather young girly who looks a little overwhelmed. It was almost an all-women court. The judge was female, the steno was female, the DP was female and there was a middle-aged Indian lady there (who turned out to be the defense lawyer instead of a primary school Maths teacher), the policeman guarding the door from creaky door springs, and the criminal - a chubby, tired looking Indian .. sorry .. Sri Lankan bloke. The questioning was rather tame.

Pinch Face asks if I am a Christian and I said, "Catholic .. is that bad?"

She tells me to raise my hand and read from a piece of laminated paper. For a moment, my brain went blank and I cast my eyes at the table top. OK, bible on right, so ... I raised my left hand up ... and Pinch Face said, "Wrong hand." So I did a fast switcheroo and raised the other hand but at that moment she said, "That's right," and for some reason I thought she was barking at me to change hands so there was a moment where I was doing a fast forward Wipe In, Wipe Out Karate Kid move while on the stand. The lines were a little easier ..the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth gizmo.

They let you sit down! Cool .. after those stairs, I needed to sit down. It was fairly comfortable up there and I started to relax till I noticed I was shaking my foot and starting to slide off the seat. Bad idea .. I straightened up and made a face to show I was truly and really in the moment and full of respect, awe and lawfulness. All the questions were remarkable simple.

"Do you know the accused?"

"No."

"Have you seen him before?"

"No."

"You .. have you seen this woman before?

Chubby Indian lady translate and chubby Sri Lankan man looks bored and says something in Sri Lankan that even I could tell meant ... "No."

They showed me my ID and asked if it was mine. There's a female smiling back at me who looks like me ... has my name and my signature ... add wow! She has my date of birth! Gee ... I really can't be certain, your Honour ...

Handing me a Certified True Copy of my police report stating that I had lost my wallet and my ID months ago, which the police did not check, the judge asked me when I lost my ID, what happened, why I didn't make a report to Immigration ... Wait! I did not know that if you made a report at a police station, they did not share that kind of information with Immigration and you are still expected to make a report to the Immigration folks! Explain to me why I should make a report to the police in the first place .. as we all know they would not have caught the bloody thieving bastards who stole my wallet! I really had to suppress the urge to roll my eyes at the farce.

At the end of about 15-20 minutes, the judge tells me I can leave. I rolled up my Certified True Copy of my police report and said very politely, "Thank you and have a nice day," and tried not skip off.

"Wait! Wait! What are you doing with the evidence?"

"Huh, you mean I can't keep it? Because I can't find my copy ..."

Er .. no. Right. Sorry.

And then the judge tried to spring a surprise attack on me. Just as I reached the lower step where I had placed my computer briefcase, my handbag and my shawl, she asked me, "Wait, did you ever lend your ID to that person?"

"Huh? Which person?" Alarmed, I swiveled around trying to spot the mysterious person.

"That person ... the accused."

"Oh ... er, no. Cause have you noticed that his lawyer has to translate everything I say? He can only speak Sri Lankan! Bit hard for me to communicate with him .. 'cos you see, I never learn Sri ..."

"You can go now."

"Oh ... OK, thanks again and good bye."

Surreal. And every bit the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God.

That night, the conundrum still troubled me and I spent a good hour having a discourse with my mates during Ramadan dinner figuring out how you would charade "Can you commit a crime for me please?" Let's just say there were a lot of creative suggestions and many obscene ones but none that I think would have put me in the position of hand gesturing Sri Lankan Mafia Mary.

What a farce! It's almost too silly to be real and if I was not the hapless git who was caught up in it I would have thought I was in a Monty Python skit. And wait a sec, they did not give me back my ID! Bastards.


Categories - Rambling Prose

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