Rumpole, Perry Mason, you ain't seen nothing yet . . .

Click to follow
The Independent Online
AN extraordinary trial is taking place in the High Court, in which a householder is being sued by a man who knocked at his door. Gavin Scroop, 39, is accused of causing grievous verbal harm to door-to-door salesman Ron Jettison, 21. The action is being brought by Jettison's employers, Peddling Products of Preston.

Here is an excerpt from an exciting moment yesterday, when Scroop was being cross-examined by Jettison's counsel.

Counsel: You are Gavin Scroop?

Scroop: That is quite correct.

Counsel: Unusual name, isn't it?

Scroop: Not at all. Gavin is quite common these days, not to say fashionable. It's a sort of up-market version of Kevin.

Counsel: I dare say. However, I was referring to 'Scroop'.

Scroop: Not at all uncommon. In its various spellings such as 'Scroup', 'Scrope' and 'Scroupe', it reoccurs throughout history. One of Lord Byron's bosom friends was, I believe, called Scrope . . . .

Counsel: So it's quite common?

Scroop: Yes . . . .

Counsel: Have you ever met anyone else called Gavin Scroop?

Scroop: Er, no.

Counsel: What age are you?

Scroop: I am 39 years old.

Counsel: You have been alive for 39 years, more than half your allotted life-span, and yet in that time you have never met another person called Gavin Scroop?

Scroop: No.

Counsel: You would have known of his existence, had he existed, would you not?

Scroop: Yes . . . .

Counsel: So, in all your life you have never known of anyone else called Gavin Scroop. Yet you insist it is a common name] You are, as far as you know, the only person with that name. Yet you maintain it is common] Do you honestly expect the court to swallow such mendacious behaviour?

Scroop: Well, I . . .

Judge: Excuse me, but may I ask where this is all leading? You've been questioning the witness for five minutes, and all you've done is elicit his name.

Counsel: A bit more than that, m'lord. I have also established that he is totally unreliable, even about the commonness of his own name, and I believe I have succeeded in badly unsettling him, thus softening him up for the next round of questions.

Judge: Good] This is more like the confrontational system. Wear the witness down till he breaks, that's the stuff. None of your bloody continental search-for- the-truth stuff here, thank God]

Counsel: No, m'lord.

Judge: Right. Do we now get to the bit about the chap knocking on the other chap's door?

Counsel: Yes, m'lord.

Judge: Good.

Counsel: Now, Mr Scroop, on 14 July last was there a knock on your door at 10.30am?

Scroop: Yes, there was.

Counsel: Did you open the door?

Scroop: I did.

Counsel: Is it an inward- or outward-opening door?

Scroop: Er, it's, let me see . . .


Judge: Is this important, or is it merely more of your unsettling technique?

Counsel: The latter, m'lord. I'm still getting him rattled.

Judge: Jolly good. Keep at it.

Scroop: I now remember that I opened the door inwards.

Counsel: Your memory is returning, is it, Mr Gavin so-called-common-name Scroop? And whom did you see on the other side of your inward-opening door?

Scroop: I saw the man I now know to be Ron Jettison.

Counsel: Can you describe him?

Scroop: Yes.

Counsel: Remarkable. Had you seen him before in your life?

Scroop: Never.

CounseEl: Or again since?

Scroop: No.

Counsel: So, you caTHER write errorn describe accurately a man you have seen only once in your life, yet you ask the court to believe you cannot remember whether you pull or push a door you use constantly?

Scroop: If you put it like that . . . .

Counsel: What did Jettison say?

Scroop: Er, he said that he was selling things door-to-door to try to beat the unemployment problem and would I like to look in his bag of merchandise.

Counsel: To which you said?

Scroop: I said I wouldn't and that I was fed up with junk callers.

Counsel: What did you mean?

Scroop: It was by analogy with junk mail. Junk mail is unwanted, cheap rubbish that you get through the post and which you normally throw away. I classed this call in the same category.

Counsel: You admit you called my client unwanted, cheap and worthless, fit only for the dustbin?

Scroop: No. I put his visit in that class, not the man himself.

Judge: That's clever. You haven't got him rattled enough yet, Sid, I feel.

Counsel: I fear you may be right, m'lord.

(More of the trial next week, I hope . . . .)