Confederation Report (October 2008)

In May I was given a book for my birthday. It is a very wonderful thing (as Ivor Emmanuel said after looking through Stanley Baker’s binoculars in Zulu), and during this miserable excuse for a summer, has given me one of only two real pleasures. (The other being a performance of “Puccini’s opera” Madam Butterfly” in the open air at Llampeter Velfrey – the only good weather I can recall this year).

Anyhow, this book is called “Foyle’s Philavery”, and is “A Treasury of UNUSUAL Words”. And I have had great amusement to drop one or two of these vocabulary gems into court proceedings in the past few months. With this wonder, I shall never again suffer from “Lethologica” (“the inability to remember a word, or to call to mind the right word”).

We used to engage in similar types of jape in the eighties in the old Cardiff Mags Court, often with the benign connivance of the “Stipe”, Sir Lincoln Hallinan. I remember the undisguised glee of Paul Malekin, then a Prosecutor, as he achieved “Marsupial” in a shoplifting case.

Sadly my abject failure with “sputum” and “rheum”, during a “failing to stop and report” trial, still rankles. Had I possessed such a hoard of “Macrology” (“a superfluity of words”), then I would not have been seen as the master of “Dontopedology” (“the science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it”).

I could go on, and on, and on. And I will. You will find an abundance of these gem-like utterings scattered throughout this missive. Sorry.

Some of them are purely self-indulgent. “Daspygal” for instance, (“Having hairy buttocks”). And “Inkkie-Pinkie” (“small beer”). What about “Obamulate” (“to wander aimlessly”). Or “Quacksalver” (“charlatan”). Even “Zoilism” (unjust or carping criticism”). You may feel they all apply rather neatly to the writer. I couldn’t possibly comment.

But one of the words I particularly enjoy, is “RESIPISCENCE”, which means “recognition of past mistakes and desire to do better in future”. And possibly because I passed yet another anniversary of my personal aging process, it keeps leaping into my rapidly draining pond of brain cells, like one of those infuriating snatches of ghastly pop songs, a whiff of which, heard on the car radio leads, inevitably, to days of unconscious humming and conscious cursing at the process. (For me it has been Brotherhood of Man’s “Save All Your Kisses For Me”.) Doh!

But it is a really positive word, because, unlike “Regret”, it indicates an intention to improve. The Good Lord knows that I have an abundant herd of Rhinocerean (I made that one up) proportioned errors sweeping across the Serengeti of my past existence, a large number of which, sadly, are beyond repair.

But, possibly to make me feel better about myself, when I look at the state of our nation, and the performance of our leaders, I do get the feeling that there is a marked lack of “resipiscence” out there.

Whilst we have had the “feel good factor” of the brilliance of the Team GB performance in the Bejing Olympics (Taffies draped with gold all over the shop), there is a marked gloom about the land, a “Murken” (“to grow dark”), and it is not just the weather causing it.

We publicly funded lawyers have been experiencing a “credit crunch” for years, so the fact that the rest of the population has now caught us up, probably means we can be more sanguine than them. Even within our own profession, there have been those that have sailed serenely through. Conveyancers and Commercial practitioners have had, until recently, a relative time of plenty. Not now.

Of course, Golden “Dead Man Walking” Brown now intends to “help” those struggling to get a mortgage, or pay it (i.e. all of us) by what in reality is to pinch our homes and make them all council houses. “Peculation” (“embezzlement, pilfering or misappropriation”) I say.

The farce that is HIPs, and the collapse of the mortgage market is, according to friends and colleagues in the property field, biting very deeply.

Perversely, on the day that I write this, there has been a “leaked” Home Office memorandum, which, incredulously, states that the economic down-turn will result in an increase of dishonesty and racial crime. How “Facinorous” (“extremely wicked”)

“CRIVENS!” (a Scots expression of astonishment). Are any of these politicians and civil servants acquainted, superficially, with history? Perhaps a quick glance at “the Green Book on the Roman Empire” that used to be standard text for the eleven-plus when I were a nipper, would show that when Mark Anthony was shacked up with Cleopatra, and intent on getting his own back on the Senate by stopping all the grain from leaving Egypt (a sort of “credit-crunchy-nut” for the Plebs), the inevitable result was a lot of naughty behaviour on the part of the starving masses, and the turning of their aggression towards the non-Romans who lived with them.

And they might have noticed that when Adolf Hitler was sleeping rough on the streets of Vienna, having to steal the odd strudel to stay alive, he formulated his anti-Semitic racial prejudice which led, ultimately, to the Holocaust.

Yes, chaps, amazingly poverty brings out the worst in folk! Survival of the meanest and nastiest and all that. And Golly-gee-willikins, it is to a large extent, the draft “policies” of New Labour, that has caused this. “Triskaidekaphobia!” I cry. (which is completely irrelevant as it means the fear of the number thirteen, but I just love the word.)

Perhaps someone should gently point out to the Government, that wars are pricey pastimes. Even when you try to fight them on the cheap by giving troops dodgy bits of kit, like thirty year old aeroplanes that have a tendency to explode because they don’t have a few quid’s worth of petrol tank sealant.

And that by letting anyone who fancies it into the country, increases, not just the population, but more significantly, to the poorest of the population.

Yep, we have a whole raft of new offences to chuck at those who commit crime, but not the system or the resources to solve the underlying problems.

I was Duty Solicitor in Cardiff a week or so ago, and it was a Friday night, so I knew it would be hectic. And the range of offences was pretty wide. In two of the cases the arrested person was, in fact the victim. So nothing new there then. And one case involving a knife was really bad. But frighteningly, only one of the seven cases led to a charge, and that was someone who had collared a teenage who was throwing rocks at his window!

There seems to be a rush to do things as quickly as possible, to give the offender a slap on the wrist, do the paperwork, add a “conviction” to the splendid statistics which show that the Government is “tough on crime”, and devil take the hindmost. The bloke in Downing Street who compiles these meaningless numbers is obviously a “Tregetor” (“a magician or juggler, who creates illusions”,)

You can now be “negligent” in failing to answer bail. In other words, you may be found guilty, and therefore fined, even if you had a darned good reason for your non-appearance, but have been a “bit” guilty or remiss.

And then we have the new fines structure. It is hideously complex, but basically if you have any form of income, and the offence can be graded as “high”, you will be fined a huge amount. Doesn’t that smack of a stealth tax to you? Peut etre shades of the “Victim Surcharge”? A certain case of “Hornswoggle” (“to cheat deceive or hoax”).

On a personal note, I had the joy of winning a trial by virtue of the fact that the two prosecution witnesses refused to come to court in the taxi provided by the new arrangement to look after them, one because the taxi was “too early” (!), the other because they couldn’t be bothered, and wanted to go out for the day, as it wasn’t raining. Perhaps they were suffering from “Approsexia” (an abnormal inability to pay attention, characterised by a lack of interest in anything). The three defence witnesses, by the way, all made it, despite none of them having their own transport and living fifteen miles from court.

As a demonstration of how over-regulated we really are, there was the case of the dog and cat kennel owners in Peterborough, who were ordered to pay £300.00 for playing radio music to their charges, as they did not have a licence, and it was breach of copyright. (Mind you the animals’ favourite was Sir Terry Wogan, so there is some justice.)

As John Cleese would say, in Monty Python, “This is getting silly”.

Oh, and by the way, if you have heard disturbing reports of me having incited listeners of my weekly spot on Pembrokeshire Radio’s morning show to destroy speed cameras, its not true. I did, I admit, tell of some of the ingenious, but CRIMINAL ACTS OF VANDALISM that have so wantonly been committed but “no-sirree”, I certainly condemned such acts, not encouraged them. Don’t do it - it will cost you an arm and a leg.

There we are, dear reader. End of this particular edition of “Grumpy Old Man Mumford’s rant”. It is back to the sub-aqua suit to try and tend the garden. I am obviously in need of “Antigropelos” (“waterproof leggings and gaiters to protect legs or clothes” – had to get one more brilliant word in). Another of those infuriating snatches of song has entered, unbidden. The one where the American lad is begging to be allowed home from Summer Camp. “Wait a minute. Its stopped hailing. Guys are swimming. Guys are sailing. Playing baseball. Gee that’s better. Mudda, Fadder, kindly disregard this letter.”

Here I’m afraid it hasn’t stopped raining, but feel free to disregard all you’ve read. If you have.

Yours Damply

Simon Mumford
Chairman, Confederation of South Wales Law Societies

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