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The Establishment

Sir James Beauchamp.Sir James Beauchamp

His Hounour Sir James speaks to Clive Anderson and explains how he came to be suspended from the bench.

A latter day Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling.


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Sir James Beauchamp

Sir James Beauchamp.CLIVE ANDERSON: Now, in the dusty world of the Courts of law, one judge has had the courage to open his mouth and blow away some of the cobwebs of tradition and hypocrisy that sometimes cloud the pure waters of justice. He's arguably Britain's best known, and indeed most notorious, judicial figure. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Sir James Beauchamp.


CA: It's good to see you Judge, well I say judge, because you're actually, what is it? You're sort of suspended at the moment.

WelcomeSIR JAMES BEAUCHAMP: Yes I'm temporarily suspended, for some mistake, a judicial mistake. Apparently I was deemed to have made.

CA: It's been considered by an enquiry.

SJB: It's being considered by my peers, and we should get the result very soon. It was an incident arising from a defendant being shot, in court.

CA: Errm, yes. By you.

SJB: By myself, yes. It was particularly unpleasant young woman, with specs, who was up on a charge of shoplifting -

CA: Yes -

SJB: And, err, I really became extremely irritated with her because her testimony was obviously full of holes and completely untrue.

CA: Yes.

A little derringerSJB: And momentarily losing patience, I vaulted over the dock and got her straight through the heart with a little derringer I always carry in this pocket.

CA: I hope you haven't got it now, but errm, capital punishment's been abolished for some time now.

SJB: Yes it has. Except in my neck of the woods. It's very much an individual choice I think, whether one executes. And it is a deterrent I think.

CA: Well, I suppose so, but it is very much you as a judge, taking the law into your own hands.

SJB: Well, who better to take the law into their own hands than a judge?

A long line of judgesCA: You come from a long line of judges though, don't you? Your father was a judge before you-

SJB: Yes, my father was judge before me, and my grandfather was a judge -

CA: Before him -

SJB: Before him. Yes, long before him actually. We go back in sequence. As far as one can remember.

CA: Now you've always had, and I've no doubt a strong sense of right and wrong. Even at school, didn't you -

SJB: I hanged a boy at school. Yes for, err, it was really dumb insolence, was the, err… he was looking at me in that particular way, you know, irritating look. When I say I hung him, or is it hanged? I never know which. Well I, I, I strung him up.

CA: And was he your fag?

He was my best friendSJB: He was my best friend.

CA: Until the hanging incident, obviously.

SJB: Yes, well, we cut him down in time. I mean, he didn't pass away, thank god. Otherwise I'd have been, I mean I'd have been in terrible trouble.

CA: Yes. Now, you've been involved in some notorious, some notorious cases. The Tiverton Twelve, that was one of yours, wasn't it?

SJB: There was a great deal of press comment, about my gaoling twelve people for life, for stealing some toffees. But that was not so much the crime I gaoled them for, it was the intent beyond the crime.

CA: Yes.

SJB: Having stolen the toffees, in my view - though it was never proved. Having stolen the toffees, they then got into a first class carriage, between Bristol and Plymouth, and started smoking.

CA: Yes. And although they spent twenty years in custody, it was later proved it wasn't them at all.

The same twelve from another areaSJB: It was another twelve from the same area. Yes.

CA: Now, British justice has come in for quite a few knocks recently. Mainly your cases, it has to be said, but quite a few others. Do you think British justice is still the best in the world? Or is it -

SJB: I think if you've committed a crime, this is not a particularly a good country to live in. But if you're wholly innocent and have never been arrested, I think this as good a place as any to stay indoors and thank your lucky stars.

CA: Well, a lot of people say there's one law for the rich and another for the poor.

SJB: Well this is all written down, of course it is. There's one law for the rich, there's several laws for the rich, and very few for the poor. Lots of laws for the rich, most of them pretty good. Fairly lenient. Fairly lenient to the rich. Because there is a difference between the rich and the poor. Yes.

A lot of laws for the rich?CA: The amount of money?

SJB: Exactly. The amount of money. And obviously you can afford more law if you're rich than if you're poor.

CA: So there's lots of laws for the rich -

SJB: Lots of laws for the rich. They can pick and chose whichever one really suits them. And the poor have to make do with the National Health, or whatever it's called.

CA: Yes, Legal Aid. A lot of people say, judges, people like you… well people don't like you. That judges are out of touch. Now how would you… you're not in touch with real people.

SJB: Of course I'm in touch with real people. I do everything day things. I go to sleep in the evening, I wake up, I have breakfast.

Are you in touch?CA: But are you in touch with television programmes at all?

SJB: Yes, I watch a great deal of television. I enjoy a lot of it. I prefer, errm, Gladiators - very, very good.

CA: Yes.

SJB: Errm, that's about it really. I just watch that. On a Saturday.

CA: And do you think that gives you a feeling for the -

SJB: It gives me a feeling of what it's like out there.

CA: Yes. And has any of this damaged your relationship with your wife at all?

SJB: Not really. My wife, as you know, is slightly physically impaired. She err, she err -


SJB: - She fell off a horse, or err, was pushed off a horse, no one really knows. But errm -

CA: Well, you were there, you must know.

SJB: Well, err, I thought, I thought she fell. But, err, it's very hard to tell at that speed.

CA: Yes.

SJB: And over those particular hedges, with the barbed wire, but errm, a very nasty fall and she's partially paralysed down, down… one side is completely immobile -

CA: Yes.

She's very plucky.SJB: So she, she's very plucky. But it means, you know, she can serve drinks, but not, errm, not peanuts at the same time. I think she'll pull through.

CA: Yes. Well we wish her well, but we have to leave it there. Thankyou very much, Sir James Beauchamp.



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