Clown court

For a spot of courtroom drama, all eyes turned last week to a battle of the titans. Two of the bar’s greats – Lord Grabiner QC and Jonathan Sumption QC – are going head-to-head again in the battle of the vases: Taylor Thomson v Christie’s.

Some of you may have missed the equally compelling viewing to be had in the Competition Appeal Tribunal recently in a case between the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and Unichem. This was less courtroom drama, more pure comedy – of the sort to be commonly found in ludicrous TV legal drama Judge John Deed. Appearing on behalf of the OFT before the court’s president, Sir Christopher Bellamy, was Monckton Chambers’ Peter Roth QC. The scene opens on day two of the hearing, with Roth attempting to unravel some confusion from the previous day. In his own words…

MR ROTH: Good morning, Sir, and the Tribunal. Despite the contraption behind me, I’m not going to start with maps.

THE PRESIDENT: Well I think that’s a great pity, because the maps are now in total confusion and we really need to be taken through them from the start to get a clearer idea of who had what maps when, and what they show.

MR ROTH: Sir, I was intending to do that in just a moment.

THE PRESIDENT: Right.

MR ROTH: And to go through it step by step. I thought that would be helpful. I just wanted to apologise for the muddle I got into on Monday, when it started to become clear to me, because I was on my feet, that what I was told about the maps and what is said in the documents about the maps to correspond to the maps and what is said in the documents about maps did not correspond to the maps that I was showing you and had in front of me; and now it emerges, as you have seen, that the wrong maps have been put in by both us and the Interveners, so I was speaking to the wrong maps and that is why I certainly got confused and I am sure I became very confusing.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we became very confused as well.

MR ROTH: I fully understand that and I’m sorry about that, and it’s embarrassing for me, too. Just before turning to maps…

What on earth would Deed have said to that?