Why the case against Dr Foster will never hold water

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The Independent Online
AMOST extraordinary case is going on at the moment in the High Court, concerning the City of Gloucester - so extraordinary, in fact, that I would like to bring you an extract from the proceedings . . . .

Counsel: M'lud, I appear in this case for the Gloucestershire Tourist Board in their case against Dr Foster of London.

Judge: I see. And of what is Dr Foster accused by you?

Counsel: Of libel, sir. Of vile libel, false rumour, denigration, defamation, unreasonable imputations, bearing false witness . . . .

Judge: Yes, yes, I get the idea. Could you be more specific?

Counsel: Specifically, Dr Foster has accused the City of Gloucester of gross mismanagement.

Judge: Has he now? Well, that sounds more promising, but it's still not exactly what I'd call specific. Got any details you'd care to entrust to us?

Counsel: Yes, m'lud. Dr Foster has accused the City of Gloucester of negligence in its road maintenance programme.

Judge: Mr Fothergill, I have not got all day to wait while you get to the point. I have an appointment this afternoon at 3.30 sharp with a Miss Backlash, also of London, and she doesn't like to be kept waiting, no sir] So I would appreciate it if you would cut a few corners and get to the nitty gritty.

Counsel: As your lordship pleases. The aforesaid Dr Foster claims that while on a visit to Gloucester during inclement weather, he was half-drowned in a pot-hole full of water, and he now proclaims that he has no intention of ever returning.

Judge: So get another doctor.

Counsel: That is not the point, m'lud. The case has attracted an amount of attention out of all proportion to its merits, and the Gloucestershire Tourist Board feels very strongly that we should put the record straight before it redounds to our discredit.

Judge: Strange word, 'redound'. D'you think it's a misprint of 'rebound'?

Counsel: I have no idea.

Judge: Well, perhaps the doctor will know.

Counsel: Which doctor, m'lud?

Judge: Your chappie. This Dr Foster. When he takes the stand. Don't forget to ask him.

Counsel: Ask him what, m'lud?

Judge: God save us. And they say that judges can't remember anything. Carry on, Mr Fothergill.

Counsel: Thank you. It is the contention of the Gloucestershire Tourist Board that there are no pot-holes of these dimensions within the bounds of the county, and that Dr Foster, who, as we shall learn, has conducted back-street operations of some dubiety, is not exactly the kind of trustworthy witness that . . .

Judge: Hold on a moment. I've just thought of something. I was talking to a colleague of mine last night who is judging an extraordinary case brought by the Gloucestershire Tourist Board against a tailor from Gloucester.

Counsel: Really, m'lud? On what charges?

Judge: On a charge of failing to produce a coat for the Lord Mayor in time for his wedding, and on an additional charge of using labour to help with the tailoring which offended health and safety regulations, to wit, mice.

Counsel: This may be so but I fail to see . . .

Judge: We compared notes and decided that it was beyond the bounds of reason that two such ludicrous cases could be brought by the same authority in the same week. Is there some reason for this, Mr Fothergill?

Counsel: If I tell you, will you promise it does not go beyond this court?

Judge: I'll promise anything. I can always change my mind.

Counsel: The fact of the matter is, m'lud, that the Gloucestershire Tourist Board is doing its best to burnish its image at the moment and to attract visitors to this ancient and historic market town, which boasts such heritage features as . . .

Judge: Oh, get on with it, for heaven's sake]

Counsel: As your lordship wishes. They therefore hit on the scheme of highlighting the city in a series of light-hearted but hard-hitting court cases . . .

Judge: Are you trying to tell me that you are using the courts of this country in order to promote a commercial image? Is it your intention to use the British justice system to get free publicity?

Counsel: Yes, m'lud.

Judge: Hmm. How monstrous. Yet how admirable. What other cases have you got coming up?

Counsel: There's a pending prosecution of the well-known Gloucestershire poacher . . .

Judge: Wasn't he a Lincolnshire poacher?

Counsel: Was he?

Judge: I think so.

Counsel: Well, that's blown that one out of the water. Never mind - we've also persuaded the Duke of Gloucester, currently appearing in King Lear, to prosecute the Duke of Cornwall on an assault charge . . .

The case continues . . .