The court-room is meant to be a serious place but people being people, humour is not far from the surface.
Hystericals – Liverpool Echo 30 April 1918:
When two women were summoned at Bootle to-day for assault, the following interesting passage took place:-
Solicitor.-Did the complainant faint?
Defendant.- No; she went into “hystericals”?
Did you go into “hystericals”?
No, I didn’t
What did you go into?
I went into the house.
Lamb like – Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser 2 September 1905:
“What is known of this lamb?” asked Mr Curtis Bennett, at Westminster Police-court on Monday, concerning James Bailey, a powerful labourer, charged with assault, who state that he had gone to the station “like a lamb.”
“Sixty previous convictions.” “Six months.”
William and Annie Owen, charged at Chiswick on Monday with begging, were very noisy, the woman stating that the police evidence made her blood boil.
Sir John Smith: I dare say it does, but you must reduce the temperature.
The pair were remanded, displaying great heat.
Truly, truly – Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail 5 December 1913:
In a wrangle between two voluble women over a small debt at the West Hartlepool County Court to-day, the plaintiff said she was so sure of the truth of her statements that “she would be standing in heaven,” and the defendant retorted “I go to Chapel. I didn’t come here to tell lies.”
Fresh pear – Sheffield Evening Telegraph 5 December 1912:
The following dialogue took place between counsel and a witness in the Law Courts to-day:
Counsel: Did you think the pear tree was in the way?
Was it in the way?-Yes.
But you said that in your opinion it wasn’t in the way?-No.
Counsel: Let us being over again.
Witness: As often as you like. (Laughter.)
You are a bit of a wag?-I don’t know what you mean.
Counsel then asked some questions about a drain.
The Witness: Don’t get too forward, now.
Counsel: We will begin all over again.
The Witness: Yes, let’s start afresh. (Laughter).
Nervous debtor – Birmingham Mail 13 August 1906:
Several flashes of humour illumed the proceedings at the Brentford County Court, on Saturday, where his Honour Judge Howland Roberts sat specially to hear a large number of judgment summonses.
The reluctance of some people to appear before a judge to be examined as to their liability to discharge their financial obligations was shown by a debtor who went to the post office, which is situated a few yards away from the County Court, and address the following telegram to the judge:-
“For the second time my courage has failed at the last moment. I am here, but I cannot face the ordeal. Will pay in a month.”
It appeared that when this nervous debtor should have appeared on a previous occasion he sent a telegram somewhat similarly worded.
A smile adorned the faces of the legal gentlemen present when a plaintiff described an absent debtor as “a prominent member of the distinguished Bar.”
The Judge: Do you mean he is a solicitor?
Plaintiff: Yes. He is one of the most eloquent men for miles around. He does a lot of business because he can “swank” the magistrates. (Loud laughter.).
The Judge: I see the debt is for wine. He must pay within twenty-one days.
The Plaintiff (wearily): I’ll take the order for what it’s worth, your Honour, but I know he’ll “diddle” me. He always does, somehow. (Renewed roars of laughter.)
‘Variety the spice of life,’ says Frank – Hull Daily Mail 14 June 1950:
A little Yorkshireman with a blue stubbly chin leaned over the dock at Pocklington today, and started to talk.
The court smiled.
When he had finished talking, the court rocked with laughter.
He is Frank Naylor (51), of no fixed address, and he was charged with stealing a bicycle.
He had worked in the mills around Halifax until last year.
Asked why he gave up this regular work, Frank looked amazed. “Why, variety is the spice of life,” he said.
He was footsore when he reached the Wellington Oak, a public-house, near Pocklington, after a night “on the rought.”
In the lock of an outhouse he found a bunch of keys. He opened a door, and quaffed a bottle of lemon squash. Then he rode away on a bicycle which he found there.
Frank reflected, “There is only one thing worse than being footsore – that is being saddle sore.”
He was trying to get to Hull to cross the ferry and travel to Skegness for work, said Frank.
“I was only waiting for my post office bank book to come through,” he said solemnly, and added, “I have 10/- in the post office, 2/- in Halifax Co-op, 1/- in Huddersfield Co-op, two or three razor blades and letter card. Those are my total assets.”
At the Coach and Horses, Dunswell, he met two policemen. “That was an unlucky stop,” he said ruefully.
The magistrates considered the case.
Mr P.C.Sands, chairman, told Frank he would be conditionally discharged and added, “We are asking the police to give 10/- from the poor box to get you to Hull and to get yourself a bite.”
“A bike?” queried Frank.
“Something to eat,” said Mr Sands.
Six of the best – Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 20 May 1931:
There were some amusing passages between his Honour Judge Lias and a witness at Holsworthy County Court yesterday.
The witness was asked his age, and replied that he was 52.
His Honour: Married?-Witness: Yes.
Any children?-Yes, six.
What’s the age of the eldest?-Thirteen.
And the youngest? Nine (Laughter.)
Is that so?-Yes.
Oh, have you got twins?-Oh, yes.
Two pairs?-No, only one pair at a time (renewed laughter.)
But you must be wrong?-Oh, no.
Are you expecting any more now?-Not for a day or two, sir. (Loud laughter.)
Tenacious tenant – Monmouthshire Merlin 28 January 1837:
BROKEN GLASS.- A vast number of very stupid, but probably very well-meaning landlords, are constantly in the habit of summoning individuals for broken squares of glass after the tenancy has expired.
In almost every case a verdict is given in favour of the defendant, from the inability of the plaintiff to prove whether the glass was all sound on the defendant’s entering the house.
A hulking-looking ex-policeman summoned a poor woman for the value of three squares of glass, 6s; whereupon the following very knotty discussion too place:-
Mr Dubois (to defendant)-Pray in what condition was these windows when you took possession of the apartments? Were they broken or cracked?
Defendant-Why, sir, two was broke and one was cracked.
A juryman-And pray don’t you call a cracked window a broken one?
Defendant-In course I doesn’t. Now lookee year; a thing wots broke has, as a natteral consequence, got a pience out on it, and wot ain’t broke, you know, harn’t have no pience out on it. I reglerly agrees as how the vindeys was cracked, but ther was never broken. (Shouts of laughter).
Commissioner-Then you draw a very delicate distinction between cracked and broken?
Defendant-Vy to be sure, and karn’t you, as has been sottin on that ere seat sich a while? Now, frinstence, is a hegg broke wot’s onlly cracked, haye? and if so be as a hegg ain’t nothin worser for being cracked, vy how can a vinder be? I puts it to any body, and to that ere bintelligent and good looking jury. (Considerable laughter).
The jury, after a short consultation, dismissed the case.