All rise for her Ladyship! This court is now in session.
Members of the jury. You have now heard all of the evidence in this case, as well as the summing-up arguments of the defense, so eloquently put to us by defending counsel Ms Ingrams there,whom I would like to compliment once more on her cogent arguments. And the stuff that prosecuting counsel said too, of course. Ms… erm, Langham I think? No, don’t get up, Ms Langham. You’ve said all you need to say, I think. Don’t worry: you did quite well, too.
As you know, members of the jury, the prisoner – Ms Rebecca Frances Davenport – stands accused of various crimes of violence which are, in descending order of severity: grievous bodily harm, actual bodily harm and assault. It is your job to decide whether she is guilty of any crime and if you do so decide, which of those it should be.
The fact of this particular case are not substantially in doubt or disputed by either party. We are concerned with the injuries sustained by Ms Davenport’s husband, Tom, when she beat him, first with a cane and then with a riding whip, after he served her coffee that was too milky.
Now, members of the jury, you may well wonder what there is in this that requires the involvement of the law? Surely in this day and age a woman has a right to beat her husband as she sees fit and for whatever reason she chooses – or indeed no reason? I am sure we have all inflicted painful punishments on males from time to time, no doubt all richly deserved – should we therefore fear the heavy hand of the local police, following some healthy domestic corrective action?
Obviously not, members of the jury. The law, thankfully, recognises the needs of males for physical chastisement and the rights of responsible females to provide it. Yet it also specifies that only ‘reasonable force’ can be used. You may feel that a wife’s rights over her husband should have no such limitation and so might I, so might any of us, but we do not make the law, ladies of the jury, and even after twelve years of Femsuprem government, this restriction remains in the law, albeit rarely tested in court.
What does it mean, this word ‘reasonable’, members of the jury? That will be for you to decide on the facts of this case, but I can give you some guidance.
First, ‘reasonableness’ refers to the severity of the beating sustained. You will have seen the detailed photographs of the buttocks and thighs of Ms Davenport’s Tom, following the beating. Or beatings. You will have noticed the many criss-crossed welts from cane and whip, the extensive bruising in all shades of purples, browns and even black. I hope it is not inappropriate for me to note that Tom Davenport has a rather attractive, muscular pair of buttocks so no doubt – like me – you examined those photographs closely and with great interest.
In fact, Clerk to the court, do you think we might be shown the photographs again?
Splendid. Mmm. Yes, there we are, members of the jury. Study the evidence carefully, so you can recall every detail when you come to deliberate. Observe for example the cross-hatching on the right thigh, where Ms Davenport – clearly a most skillful wielder of the disciplinary rod – has first laid down a ladder of horizontal stripes with the cane, at near mathematically precise intervals, then some half an hour later, after devoting herself to abusing some other area of his flesh, returned and positioned herself in front of her secured husband and completed this grid pattern we see here with an exactly equivalent set of vertical strokes from her whip.
You will no doubt recall, members of the jury, how Tom sobbed with pain and fear even at the recollection of this part of his beating, as he described it stroke by stroke, with these fine photographs arranged to provide the colour, so to speak, to his shaking, tearful description. Indeed, members of the jury, one of you at least will recall that testimony very well, as we all heard that you were unable to contain your excitement. No cause for embarrassment, madam, still less – as counsel for the prosecution suggested – a reason to consider you biased and thus unfit to serve. It is perfectly normal, healthy and proper for a female to become sexually excited when contemplating a male being punished. You merely articulated what many of us, I dare say, were feeling, but with fewer inhibitions. And perhaps a little more loudly.
These bruises – whips and cane strokes, members of the jury – are the injuries at issue in this case. The prosecution withdrew the allegation that the injuries to ankles and wrists were in any way Ms Davenport’s fault, as those were inflicted by her male upon himself, as he struggled under the lashes of her discipline. A fine pickle we would all be in, members of the jury, if any husband could escape the consequences of wifely retribution merely by jerking his arms so much when secured across the family whipping block, so as to dislocate his wrist or elbow!
So, members of the jury, have a last look at these photographs before I must ask the clerk to take them away again. Consider the welts and bruises inflicted – consider them carefully. They are certainly skillful, and I think it is clear that they were most effective in bringing home to Tom the errors of his ways and thus ensuring a more harmonious domestic environment. You might consider them, although severe, well within the boundaries that are – and should be – allowed for domestic discipline in our society. Bearing in mind the importance of suppressing all or any glimmers of male rebellion, after we finally threw off centuries of male oppression. You might feel that Ms Davenport should be praised for her skill and her firmness in how she dealt with her husband and wish to reward rather than penalise her for that. However, your task is a simpler one: was this firm, effective – and no doubt for Ms Davenport thoroughly enjoyable – thrashing a reasonable way for her to discipline her husband, just as reasonable as any beating any of us might inflict on our partners, any night of the week? You may well think so, members of the jury, you might well think so.
However, you might also choose to decide for whatever reason seems proper to you, that this action was unreasonably painful for Tom. The question, for the avoidance of doubt, being whether you consider the pain inflicted unreasonably severe. You are not being asked to decide whether Ms Davenport was unreasonably lenient on Tom. You might decide she was unreasonably severe… perhaps because you believe, in effect, that males even in firmly loving disciplinary relationships should be able to count on the law to protect them, should they – the males, members of the jury – themselves decide that the pain is too much for them. Perhaps you might think that you would be entirely content if your own husband were to turn around and warn you not to hurt him too much, threatening you with prosecution. You might think any of those things, members of the jury, and if you do then you might decide that the level of pain inflicted in this case, as shown in these splendid photographs, was unreasonable. You might decide that; you have that right and duty. Or you might decide that there’s nothing wrong with a woman beating her man to the best of her ability and that the pain will do him nothing but good. It is up to you.
Clerk of the court, with regret I must ask you to take the photographs away again.
Now, members of the jury, there is a second element to ‘reasonableness’ and that relates to the severity of the punishment in relation to the fault Tom committed. As you will recall: he served his wife coffee that was too milky.
Now, counsel for the prosecution devoted considerable efforts to paint this act of Tom’s as somehow undeserving of the thrashing that he received. You may have found the prosecution’s arguments a little hard to follow there, members of the jury. I am not sure I myself can help you much in understanding them, but I will do my best. I believe young Ms Langham’s point was that milky coffee is not such a bad thing. That – in effect – Ms Davenport should simply have put up with the milky coffee. Perhaps, members of the jury, the prosecution would like you to think she should have drunk coffee that was milkier than she enjoys, to avoid hurting the feelings of – or in other ways hurting – her husband. She could, in short, have taken some discomfort upon herself, privileging the feelings and desires of a male, above her own. As women did for so many centuries under the patriarchy. Perhaps the prosecution also believes she should have taken on some of the housework, to give poor Tom a break, put on an apron and cooked him a meal – or even gone down on her knees before him, unlocked his belt and given him a blow-job? Perhaps. We don’t know. All the prosecution said was that Ms Davenport should have simply forced down the unpleasantly milky coffee without complaining. That this would have been more ‘reasonable’ then the actions she in fact took. Perhaps you agree with that idea, members of the jury. Or perhaps you do not.
Let me nonetheless remind you of a few relevant facts to consider. First: Ms Davenport has been Tom’s wife for over four years and was his Responsible Female for some eight months prior to that. She is not – and I believe this is undisputed – new to coffee drinking, members of the jury. Tom has been making her cups of coffee for all of that time. Every day, usually more than once. Tom knew how she liked her coffee, members of the jury. A crucial point, so I shall emphasise it again: Tom knew how she liked her coffee. Yet he made it too milky. She likes her coffee quite dark… Tom knew that but made it milky. An act of rebellion, perhaps, members of the jury? Or merely the act of an unthinking male, characteristically concerned only with his own convenience and thinking nothing of the needs and wants of the woman whom he promised to love, serve and obey when they married? Either way, I am sure you will want to consider very carefully whether you wish to characterise a corrective beating in response to such behaviour as ‘unreasonable’, members of the jury. But of course that is a matter for your judgement.
Second, we have heard Ms Davenport’s evidence – corroborated by Tom when he was strapped across the witness block – that this was the third time in the last year that he had served her coffee that was too milky. The third time, members of the jury! He repeatedly served her coffee he knew she would not like! Is that the act of an obedient husband? Should she allow it to pass unrebuked? Is it really that unreasonable for a husband to spend a few hours screaming and struggling under a relentless beating when he has willfully ignored his wife’s wishes time and time again? Indeed, how ‘reasonable’ would it be for Ms Davenport – for any woman – to suffer such a repeated gesture of contempt and not inflict a thorough beating, I ask you? I can merely ask: it is of course for you to decide that, not for me.
Finally, we come to the conflicting evidence relating to Ms Davenport’s instructions to Tom, when she dispatched him to the kitchen to prepare the coffee. She has testified that she clearly said “And don’t put too much milk in it, maggot!”, ‘maggot’ of course being the affectionate nick-name she uses at home to refer to Tom. The maggot himself – Tom, that is – denies that she made any such remark, and maintained that position even under vigorous cross-examination over the witness block. Rather a crucial piece of evidence, members of the jury, as even those of you who might for some reason feel well-disposed towards Tom and inclined to be lenient towards his apparent total lack of interest in his wife’s comfort might feel that serving milky coffee following such an instruction is tantamount to direct disobedience. Direct disobedience, members of the jury.
Something none of us would tolerate in our own relationships, I venture to say. But that is of course for you to decide, not for me. Perhaps you are of a different opinion. That is your right.
But many of us would no doubt feel that if such an instruction were given, Ms Davenport has no case to answer.
Yet was such an instruction given? Here we have two witnesses offering conflicting evidence on this point, members of the jury! Ms Davenport says she gave such an instruction, Tom says she did not. She says she did. He says she did not. How can we resolve this conundrum? Fortunately, I can be of service to you on that point, as the law is quite clear in this regard: when a female witness and male witness provide conflicting accounts like this, the female’s evidence is to be accepted and the male’s disregarded. That is now established case-law, with numerous precedents dating back to soon after the Liberation. It is in any event only common sense: females being generally trustworthy while males, as we all know, are duplicitous, lying little weasels. So you can put your minds at rest: Tom lied in the witness box and his evidence is to be disregarded. He was instructed to ensure the coffee was not too milky: the evidence on that is uncontested. Uncontested by any female, anyway, and legally that amounts to the same thing.
So: members of the jury, that is the case in a nutshell. It is now for you to decide whether Ms Davenport is guilty or not guilty.
You will of course be well aware of the intense media interest in this case. Cases brought by husbands against their wives are thankfully rare and I believe this is the first time for several years that a male has sought to bring such serious charges against any Responsible Female, let alone his wife. Public opinion in some quarters is running understandably hot but I must advise you not to be influenced by anything you may have seen or read. You must put such headlines as “Drink that, you bitch or I’ll have the law on you!” and “Criminal waste of police time and public money” or other such over-simplified characterisations of this matter entirely from your minds. Similarly, you may or may not be aware that certain underground – and illegal – ‘men’s lib’ publications are following the case with keen, if rather furtive, interest. One such – a squalid publication absurdly named Equal rights for men now! – even sees the decision I shall shortly ask you to retire to consider to be, as with some distaste I quote, “the first step in rolling back the oppressive and brutal Femsuprem state.”
Like the rest of us, they must await your decision, ladies of the jury. Whether you wish to encourage men’s libbers in their shrill and self-centred campaign, or not, I urge you to put any such considerations entirely aside and decide only the case in front of you: is Ms Davenport guilty, or not guilty? And decide that on the facts. Let any political consequences fall as they may.
And that is the only decision in front of you: remember, Tom is not the accused and you are not here to decide what should happen to him, no matter how much you might like to be able to do so.
No: the accused today is a woman, a female. As you are female. As I am. And I will leave you with just one more piece of legal advice and that – as counsel for the defense explained earlier so well – is something known as the golden thread that runs through English justice: the presumption of female innocence. Every woman, no matter how severe a crime she is accused of, is innocent until proven guilty. If there is any reasonable – that word again, madam jurors! – any reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused, then she must be set free. That is a cornerstone of female liberty, in this United Queendom.
So: members of the jury. It is time for you to retire to consider your verdict.
(Two minutes later)
Madam Forewoman, welcome back. have you reached a verdict on which you are all agreed?
Jury forewoman: We have, Your Ladyship.
And do you find the accused, Ms Rebecca Frances Davenport, guilty or not guilty?
Jury forewoman: Not guilty on all counts, Your Ladyship.
Thank you. You have discharged your duty admirably, no doubt weighing up –
Jury forewoman: And if I may say so, Your Ladyship, we think the little swine deserved everything he got and then some. I’d have given him a second full dose later the same day, if my husband had –
Yes, erm.. thank you Madam Forewoman. I’m sure we all share… anyway, you have been most helpful. You have carried out your duty in a case that… well, some might say should frankly never have been brought, but I am nonetheless grateful. You may –
Jury forewoman: And also, if any tosser of a man thinks he can –
Yes, THANK YOU, Madam Forewoman, members of the jury. You may stand down.
Now. First of all, it is my very pleasant duty, Ms Davenport, to declare you not guilty. An innocent woman, entirely cleared of all charges and without a stain on your character. You may thrash males with the skill and vigour you displayed towards your Tom without the slightest concern that the law might seek to intervene to soften the blows, so to speak.
Rebecca Davenport: Thank you, Your Ladyship. I’m so pleased.
I’m sure all right-thinking citizens are, Ms Davenport. Indeed, although in my supervision of these proceedings and my summing up I had to be scrupulously unbiased, to ensure an absolutely fair trial, now the jury has reached its well-justified decision, I will note for the record that I believe the Police and the Public Prosecution Service have some serious questions to ask themselves about their decision to intervene in this matter. What exactly they were thinking, to bring the full majesty of the law into a simple and wholesome domestic beating? That mystifies me as it has mystified so much of the press. It may even be a resigning matter, in some quarters.
I’ll confess I found it difficult at times to restrain my extreme scepticism about the case that has been brought before me and my irritation at the – frankly – rather sexist implications of the idea that a woman cannot beat her male as she sees fit. I had thought those dark days of male impunity were behind us. Following the jury’s wise decision, perhaps at last they are.
I should note for the record, however, that my criticism does not extend to counsel for the prosecution, who really has done her best, I believe. Barristers, especially junior barristers (and by her youthful appearance I believe Ms Langham to be very junior), must accept briefs that come to them and Ms Langham was doing her job and carrying out her duty, in making the best case she could on behalf of this wretched male.
Ms Langham (blushing): Thank you, Your Ladyship.
And your rather pretty blush reminds me, Ms Langham, of how I – and I think we all – felt the greatest sympathy for your embarrassment when you had to present some of the more absurd elements of the prosecution’s case. At least you did it most fetchingly – you wear the barristers robe so well – and it was a pleasure to have you in my court. No, sit down, now Ms Langham! You have carried out your disagreeable task very well and if we did not always agree with what you had to say, I for one thoroughly enjoyed listening to you say it. I hope you are able to take on rather more wholesome work as your career develops.
Finally, more seriously, I turn to what should become of Tom Davenport. As I explained to the jury, he is not on trial here. Yet there is obviously now a serious question of whether charges should be brought for wasting police time and for perjury – which he obviously committed when he contradicted the evidence of a woman, while under oath. These are serious charges and if found guilty of both, Tom Davenport as he now is (but he would lose his name, of course) could face a sentence of up to thirty-five years in a Male Re-education Centre. Even without going to the trouble of such a trial, I could here and now sentence him to eighteen months in an MRC for contempt of court.
I am minded to do so. The healthy outdoor air, the constant physical labour and of course the frequent attentions of skilled and qualified Male Re-education Officers, would clearly do Tom nothing but good. He would emerge a changed man – changed much for the better. I can consign him to such a camp only for up to eighteen months, as I said, but the Camp Commander or her deputies can extend his stay indefinitely in the case of, for example, disobedience, disrespect or repeated laziness. Given his behaviour in married life, such offences seem almost certain, so although I cannot directly impose the sentence of many years that he so richly deserves, without wasting still more time and money on trials, I am confident he would receive an appropriate ‘education’ and would be able to take the time needed to let the lessons sink in.
There is another course of action. His wife, Ms Davenport, has by her actions already demonstrated her devotion to his improvement and her determination that he should mend his ways. As well has her skill and vigour in encouraging him to do so. Rather than making him a burden on the State and having him take up a square metre or two of bare concrete in a cell block that could otherwise be used to house a male with no such loving alternative, I am inclined simply to release him back into her care. However, she is of course entirely within her rights to reject the selfish little swine, in which case I will happily consign him to the care of the MRS. Ms Davenport, would you be willing to take this ungrateful male back?
Rebecca Davenport: Oh yes, Your Ladyship. Willing and quite ready, believe me.
Your commitment to his welfare makes you a role model for women everywhere, Ms Davenport. Very well. Clerk of the court, please record that the court instructs the MRS to restore Rebecca Davenport’s rights over the boy Tom, of the same name, as his Responsible Female. Also, that the aforesaid Tom receives a suspended sentence of eighteen months re-educational labour at the discretion of his Responsible Female, that sentence to lapse after thirty years if no further offence is committed. And finally, the aforesaid Tom is hereby sentenced to – I’m sorry, that’s the wrong word, please strike it from the record – released into the care of his wife and Responsible Female, the aforesaid Rebecca Davenport.
Good. Anything else?
Thank you, ladies. This court is no longer in session. Ms Langham, I wonder if you would care to join me in my private chambers, for a quick glass of sherry?
|Miss Langham. She really is very young, poor thing, to take on such a difficult brief. But her senior colleagues (who had all skillfully avoided taking the case) advised her that if she did her best and smiled at the judge a lot, the judge would probably treat her kindly. And they were right.