Posts Tagged ‘court’

To adapt the opening to a well known book:

Alison Chabloz is an antisemite. There is no doubt whatsoever that Alison Chabloz is an antisemite. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the stories I am going to relate.

(She’s also a holocaust denier, white nationalist, and avid and vocal supporter of literal Nazis, but that’s a bit of a mouthful and it ruined the flow of the paragraph above. However, it’s equally important to understand and appreciate all of that as well.)

Chabloz was convicted at trial in 2018 of offences relating to malicious communications, and then, upon appeal this year, her convictions and sentences were upheld.

I’m not going to go into the whys and wherefores of whether she should have been charged, and then convicted; there are coherent and rational arguments on both sides. If you want to read more on it, well, Google is your friend.

But I attended most of the days of the pre-trial hearings, and then both trials.

Leaving aside the specifics of the trials themselves, attending them was a genuinely fascinating experience. Y’see, I’d never been to court before. I came close a couple of times, professionally, but in the past couple of years I’ve been in court a few times. Never as a defendant, I hasten to add, nor as a witness, merely as an interested – a very interested – observer.

What surprised me – continued to surprise me, on each occasion – was how genuinely interesting it was. I’ve heard the tales of how boring it is, how technical much of the legal argument is, how painstakingly slow the days go; also of the arcane and nitpicking over points of law to the point of absurdity…

Well, not in my admittedly limited experience.

All the barristers and advocates I’ve observed have been at pains to explain to the court, to witnesses, and to the judges, in the plainest possible language, their cases.

Sure, there have been plenty of technical details, but nothing that was even mildly difficult to follow.

Maybe I’ve just been lucky. Or maybe it’s that like so much else:

a) things have changed, and
b) the worst steoptypes are the worst, not the typical.

So, anyway, back to Chabloz.

STORY 1: Zionist… maths?
A pre-trial hearing, fairly early on in the process. As I recall, it had to do with formally reading the charges, and legal argument as to whether the court had jurisdiction over two of them.

While we were waiting, I pulled out of my bag the book I was then reading: Things To Make And Do In the Fourth Dimension by Matt Parker. (If you don’t know Matt, he’s an Australian mathematician and standup comedian, part of The Festival of The Spoken Nerd.)

It’s a great book; funny, clever and lots of thought experiments and things, as the title promises, to make… and to do. I’d picked it up in the hope it would refresh my enjoyment of numbers and maths; it quickly did both.

So, there I was, in the public gallery at Chabloz’s pre-trial hearing, and as on previous occasions, I was one of the few who wasn’t there to support her. Oh, yes, she had her supporters; a dozen or so people there, some wearing offensive t-shirts, some with tattoos that wouldn’t be out of place at a far right rally… for the obvious reason.

Before the hearing started, I was reading the opening chapter of the book… which deals with “how high can you count with your fingers?”

It’s an obvious question, and an even more obvious answer, yes?

No. It’s only obvious if you a) count in Base 10, and b) allow each finger to count as a single unit.

The moment you switch to other bases, or take advantage of knuckles, etc…

Look, here are some pics of the illustrations, at a decent size so you can appreciate them.

So there I am, reading away, chuckling at the gags – it’s a genuinely funny book – when suddenly A Shadow comes over me, and a very large bloke is looming over me – give him credit, he was very good at looming – and staring at my Star of David necklace, which was revealed by my just-open shirt.

Now, it’s not a huge Magen David, but yes, granted, it’s noticeable.

He clocks the diagrams of the hand counting on the page and is suddenly in my face – “Are those Zionist hand signals then?” he demands. (I’d add ‘belligerently’ but be fair, that’s a given.)

I look up in surprise and he gestures to the court room before us. “Are you going to signal the zionists in the court…?”. And then there’s suddenly two more people, equally knuckle draggers, pointing at the page, and muttering.

There was a lot of muttering.

I merely raise the book, so they can see the cover… the idea of mathematics is apparently but very obviously beyond them; they make some further comments about zionist and jews… and signals.

There is more muttering.

Apparently, it’s well-known, ‘we’ have secret hand signals. You didnt know that? Well, now you do.

But before I could actually say anything… the clerk of the court called us to order and the case began; they returned to their seats, glaring at me… and muttering.

Gloriously, a few weeks later I met up with Matt at a comedy gig and told him what happened. I bet him – before I told him the tale – that no matter what reactions he expected the book to have… that wasn’t one of them.

I won the bet. And I got his permission to tell the story, and use the images above, for which he has my grateful thanks.

So, Chabloz was tried in magistrates’ court in 2018, and was convicted. She appealed her verdict and, in early 2019, she faced… well, it wasn’t merely a new hearing; the prosecution and defence cases were presented again, calling witnesses and everything.

And it wasn’t merely an appeal, because it wasn’t on a point of law; the entire case was reheard in front of three district judges. It was, effectively, a new trial. So I’ll call it that.

STORY 2: “One of us?”
The first day of the trial, post pre-trial hearings, is due to start at 10am. I get there about five to, but the display screen is showing the case is now due to start at 10:30 in Court 8. The usher outside the courtroom confirmed “an urgent court matter” had to be dealt with. (I guessed a bail matter or search warrant or somesuch… the usher just said he ‘couldn’t say’ why, but that it shouldn’t take long.)

So, I’m waiting outside the courtroom, checking Twitter, playing a game on my iPhone, and A Very Nice Older Lady comes across.

Very polite, very unsure. Think Miss Marple, but a bit taller, a bit less bird-like. But basically… her.

Hello, are you going into Court 8?” she asks.

Now I have no idea who she is, or why she’s asking, and previous experience has taught me the wisdom of wariness. I merely look up and reply with “Hello, can I help you?”

Very Nice Older Lady: “Oh, I’m supposed to be going in there but I thought it was due to start at 10.

I explain about the delay and she’s full of “Thank you so much, oh dear, but thank you…”

“Not a problem,” says I, and go back to my phone.

Anyway, 20 minutes later, we’re let in. I find a seat at the end of the front row, directly behind the row reserved for the press.

She immediately comes over to me, suddenly very animated.

Oh!” She says… “Oh… I didn’t realise you were… ‘One Of Us!’

Now, as I’m sure you’ll appreciate, dear reader, ‘One Of Us’ could mean a multitude of things. It could mean:

Oh, you’re also Jewish!’

It could alternatively mean:

Oh, you’re also interested in the trial

Or it could be:

how lovely, someone else coming here to support our dear friend in her hour of persecuted need!

Could be anything…

So I say, politely, with a smile, “I don’t know if I’m ‘one of you’… what do you mean?”

One of us!

“Er…” I smile. She’s not making this easy.

Here to see the trial?” she ventures.

Me: “Well, yes… but whether I’m ‘one of you’, I guess, depends on which side you’re on.”

Pardon?” The Very Nice Older Lady looks shocked, as if the very idea that someone could be ‘on the other side’ is inconceivable, literally inconceivable. Still not helping, though. But she starts to look less ‘very nice’.

I offer: “Well, whether I’m ‘one of you’ depends on whether you’re hoping she’ll be acquitted, or whether she’ll go down for a couple of years.”

Well, acquitted OF COURSE!” She looks at me, the penny finally starting to drop…

“Ah. Then I’m very much not ‘one of you’…”


“No, I’m hoping she gets convicted again and is sentenced for as long as the judge can possibly send her down for…”

“…” (And for once, that’s not a conceit… her mouth opened and closed a couple of times, but nothing came out.)

I smile very sweetly at her.

Ah, she finds her voice. “Ooh,” she says. Yes, she said “ooh.” Then “I should bash you…” and raises a mildly shaking hand…

“I really, really, wouldn’t advise it…” I say, and fuck knows what she sees in my face when I say it… but she scuttles to the other side of the box so fast, your eyes would spin…

And then spent the rest of the session muttering to her companions and pointing at me…

So, that was nice.

So, what did I learn from the two stories above? Antisemites who support Alison Chabloz like to mutter, and to point. And to point and mutter. And that they are very, very stupid.

(I was curious later, so had a look online. According to a revisionist – i.e. holocaust denying – website, the woman’s name is ‘Sophie Johnson’, or at least one identity she’s used is, and she’s one of Chabloz’s chief supporters. She’s on the left in the pic attached.)

See you tomorrow, with something very different.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.