Jacqui, our police station maestro (never knowingly flustered), phones me.
"Virtual court this morning, Bruce?? "Sure. What?s he up for?? "Masturbation.?
"Jacqui, that?s not an offence....?
Wait a minute, it might be. I haven?t read Crimeline this week and things move so quickly. Theresa May probably insisted on it when she brought back the ducking stool for unmarried mothers. Without Ken Clarke?s stabilising influence, it has probably been outlawed, along with cigar smoking. On the bright side, this means more work: the youth court will be standing room only.
"No, Bruce. It?s outraging public decency. He was in a car...?
"Jacqui! Stop! We are both of gentle breeding and I am having breakfast. I can always read the advance disclosure.?
Later, I am patched through to Brixton. Educated accent but, aside from that, it?s not good. He looks like Rasputin before the haircut. The greasy locks straggle over the shoulders and blend with the beard. Tombstone teeth.
The address on the charge sheet is: "Lives in van, parked in Newtown Street, Battersea.? The custody officer was obviously past caring at this point.
It takes place on Brixton Hill ? "Loitering Central?. CCTV picks up client in flagrante delicto under a conveniently sited streetlamp. The police investigate and find him still engaged. He is arrested, shown the CCTV footage and makes admissions, saying he was "looking at the ladies?.
I summarise the evidence to him. "Not guilty!?
"Not guilty. The officer could never have seen me from that angle.?
"You are under a streetlamp...??
"But it?s shining the other way! No way did he see anything!?
"You?ve seen the CCTV? With my colleague? You agree it shows you?? I tail off tactfully.
"Yes, but the officer is lying. He could not see it. My jumper was covering everything!?
"Mr Silver, you and I may understand the consolation of philosophy but I doubt this bench will. Give me a "G?, give me a "U?, give me an "I?. Repeat that back please.
"Give me an "L?, give me a "T?, give me a "Y?! What does that spell??
"What does that spell?? "Guilty??
"Excellent! You got it in one!? (Endorse file: "I discuss the evidence with client together with the burden of proof. I point out the benefits of an early plea of guilty and the reduction in sentence.? LCJ Igor Judge, wait till I get you home...)
"Can I have bail??
"You don?t have an address.?
"Yes I have. I?ve got a friend?s number in my wallet.? Now I understand that custody officer. Like him, I am about not to bother.
But wearily I "phone a friend?.
"Sue? I am calling on behalf of Harry Silver.? "I don?t know him at all!?
As I am doing this in front of the client on the live link, I reluctantly pursue it further and describe both him and the offence ? in detail.
"Oh yes, he can stay here! I know him from our church!?
Somewhere, a guardian angel smiles benevolently.