Miles Kington: Caution: flashing lights are used on this bicycle

'Now, Mrs Farthing, on 17 February last year, you were riding your bicycle home along the Bayswater Road...'
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There is a most curious case going on in the High Court at the moment in which a bicyclist is accused of causing a major traffic incident while pedalling along quite peacefully and legally. You don't believe me? Then listen to the evidence... We join the case as the defendant takes the stand.

Counsel: Could you tell the court your name please, madam?

Defendant: Yes. My name is Penny Farthing.

Counsel: Is that your real name?

Defendant: Certainly. What is unreal about it?

Counsel: It seems rather far-fetched.

Defendant: I don't see why. I knew a girl once called Penny Black. Nobody thought it was funny that she was named after a stamp.

Counsel: I take your point. Though if one were to meet a girl called Penny Dreadful...

Defendant: Have you ever met a girl called Penny Dreadful?

Counsel: No.

Defendant: Then the case does not arise.

Counsel: Quite so. Now, Mrs Farthing, on 17 February last year, you were riding your bicycle back home along the Bayswater Road. What kind of bike was it?

Defendant: Black.

Counsel: Can you remember anything else about it?

Defendant: No.

Counsel: But you had lights on?

Defendant: Yes. I was quite legal.

Counsel: We shall see about that. A bright halogen front light, I believe, and a multi-pattern back light?

Defendant: Yes. I had the back light switched to the fast, blinking red pattern.

Counsel: Why did you not have it switched to the steady red glow? Or the rippling wave pattern?

Defendant: I find that the fast blinking effect makes you more noticed by traffic.

Counsel: We shall see about that.

Defendant: I wish you wouldn't keep saying that.

Counsel: Are you aware, Mrs Farthing, that a fast blinking light effect is also known as a stroboscopic effect?

Defendant: It is possible.

Counsel: Which may cause epileptic fits in those susceptible?

Defendant: It is possible.

Counsel: Which was indeed the case with the driver behind you, a Mr Saddim Hadiqi? Who promptly went off the road into a lamp post, initiating the worst traffic congestion seen in the Bayswater Road this many a long year?

Defendant: It is possible.

Counsel: I wish you wouldn't keep saying that.

Defendant: Touché. But it never occurred to me that Muslims also had epileptic fits.

Counsel: Did you know the driver behind you was a Muslim?

Defendant: No.

Counsel: Then what was the point of that remark?

Defendant: None at all. But then I don't see the point of any of this.

Counsel: Mrs Farthing! Your lights were the cause of a major accident! And you say you don't see the point of this? Normally, when stroboscopic effects are used, a warning sign is displayed: CAUTION - FLASHING LIGHTS ARE USED IN THIS PRODUCTION!

Defendant: If I rode around London with a big sign on my bike warning people of the use of flashing lights, then I really would cause accidents! In any case, these lights are perfectly legal. They are on sale everywhere.

Counsel: Guns are also on sale everywhere. That does not make them harmless. They are lethal.

Defendant: Then why are guns handed out in great quantities to people by the Government, and no questions asked?

Counsel: Guns handed out by the Government? To whom?

Defendant: Every British soldier gets one.

Counsel: Ah, but that is different! Soldiers are armed against our enemies!

Defendant: In what sense are the Taliban our enemy?

Judge: Mr Rossiter! Mr Rossiter!

Counsel: Yes, m'Lud?

Judge: If this were an edition of Just a Minute, you would be guilty of heinous deviation! This has nothing to do with bicycle lights!

Counsel: No, m'lud.

Judge: Let's pick it up from... No, I suggest you start right from the beginning again.

Counsel: Very well, m'lud... Could you tell the court your name, please, madam?

Defendant: Yes. My name is Penny Farthing.

Etc, etc, etc. It makes you proud of British justice, doesn't it?

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