I read this morning that the mother of the youth acquitted of charges of swearing at a policeman has defended her son, claiming that the policeman had provoked the incident by swearing at him. Well, I suppose she has a point.
And it raises the question of where the liberalisation of discourse will end.
You will recall that the judge in the case, the splendidly named Mr. Justice Bean, stirred controversy yesterday by saying that it’s okay to swear at police offices because they’ve heard it all before. Many of the responses today from bloggers, radio callers and columnists, sensibly ignoring Mr. Bean’s point about officers of the law being inured to such language, more pertinently questioned how they would be able to maintain their authority if called upon to ignore such insults.
One columnist asked, one supposes rhetorically, whether Mr. Bean would allow swearing in his courtroom. Would he, in observance of custom, cite them for contempt of court? All I can say is that we may have to rewrite Mr. Bean’s courtroom transcripts.
Judge (taking his seat on the bench): First case, please.
Prosecuting Counsel: Well, Your Honour, we caught this little shit nicking lead off the church roof, and we fucking-well intend to prove it.
Judge: Defendant, how do you plead?
Defendant: Fuck off, you stupid old tosser.
Judge (to Defence Counsel): I take it your client is pleading Not Guilty.
Defence Counsel: Of course he is, you wanker.
Judge (endorsing the plain speaking): Don’t you call me a wanker, you fat cunt.
A little far-fetched, you say. But where does Mr. Bean’s very curious observation about policemen ultimately take us? To debates in the Houses of Parliament? To classrooms? Perhaps to the Home Office, whose officials seem to be supporting Mr. Bean’s campaign.
Damned if I know – if you’ll pardon the expression.