When is a burglar not a burglar?

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The Independent Online

Yesterday I brought you part of an unusual trial in which Mr and Mrs Cartwright are accused of unlawful kidnapping, detention and goodness know what, just because they mistakenly locked a burglar inside their house, not knowing he was there when they went out for the evening. I think it might be instructive to bring you a further extract from a case which may, possibly, lead to a change in the law.

Yesterday I brought you part of an unusual trial in which Mr and Mrs Cartwright are accused of unlawful kidnapping, detention and goodness know what, just because they mistakenly locked a burglar inside their house, not knowing he was there when they went out for the evening. I think it might be instructive to bring you a further extract from a case which may, possibly, lead to a change in the law.

 

Counsel: So, Mr Cartwright, the position is that you and your wife popped across the road to the Quigleys for half an hour, during which time Fred Winter...

Cartwright: A burglar...

Counsel: Fred Winter, a private citizen, entered your house. You then returned and locked up the house so that he could not leave. Five hours later you found my client in a pitiful state of nervous collapse.

Cartwright: He should not have been there in the first place.

Counsel: That is beside the question. You might just as well say that a man who is hit by a car should not be in the road in the first place.

Cartwright: I do say that.

Counsel: All right, I will give you another example. It is like saying that a man who is robbed of his money should not have had all that money in the first place.

Cartwright: It is not like that at all.

Counsel: Yes, it is.

Cartwright: No, it isn't.

Judge: For heaven's sake, you two! Arguing by analogy is always a fool's game, so pray desist. Carry on.

Counsel: Yes, m'lud. Now, Mr Cartwright, you persistently describe Mr Winter as a burglar, but you have no evidence to support this. In the five hours he was in your house, did he remove anything?

Cartwright: Only the whisky he consumed.

Counsel: Which he did not remove, but merely transferred from bottle to stomach?

Cartwright: You could say that.

Counsel: Then I think it is not fair to describe him as a burglar.

Cartwright: If I hadn't locked him in accidentally, he would have scarpered with all my valuables.

Counsel: You have no evidence for that.

Cartwright: Then what was he doing in my house in the first place?

Counsel: That is not central to the case. What is central to the case is that you deprived my client of his basic human rights by locking him up, preventing his coming and going, denying him free movement, restricting all access to the outside world and making him a virtual prisoner.

Cartwright: You make it sound as they are lots of different things. That's just one thing expressed lots of different ways.

Counsel: Yes. It's an old lawyer's trick. But you must admit you are guilty of having restricted his movements.

Cartwright: The pair of braces I am wearing restricts my movements. Yet they are not being prosecuted! (Laughter in court.)

Judge: Silence in court! There will only be laughter if I am heard to make a joke! (Laughter in court.) That was not a joke. (Silence in court.) Carry on, Mr Tinnion.

Counsel: Thank you, m'lud. Now, where was I...?

Cartwright: Were we not discussing whether a pair of braces could be prosecuted for restricting a person's movement?

Counsel: We most certainly were not. We were trying to establish that your actions led to my client being deprived of his human rights.

Cartwright: Does Fred Winter, burglar, have a human right to enter my house uninvited? Why is he not being prosecuted for breaking and entering?

Counsel: Because he did not break and enter. No force was involved. He merely entered an open door.

Cartwright: Then why is he not being prosecuted for entering?

Counsel: Because entering is not a crime.

Judge: Mr Tinnion, it occurs to me that you and the witness are suffering from role reversal. It is customary for the counsel to ask questions and the witness to answer them. I find it unsettling to hear a counsel being cross-questioned by a witness... That was a joke. (Laughter in court.)

The case continues, though not in this column.

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