Courtroom drag act

Baffling news from New Zealand: a male barrister has been held in contempt of court after appearing before the judge in ladieswear. I should have thought that cross-dressing was one of the main attractions of the profession. Admittedly, this particular gentleman preferred a Little Bo Peep costume to the traditional black gown and ram’s arse wig, but who are judges to complain when many of them wear nappies as a form of recreation? Give a man a gavel and the power goes to his head.

His reason for wearing a girl’s dress was to protest against the overly-male judiciary. Yet there are surely valid legal arguments against female judges. Bear in mind that most criminals are young men, and the worst rogues among them are often blessed with the looks of Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. What is to stop them from flirting with a female judge by mentally undressing her in court and making passionate eye-contact whenever she addresses him? Most lady judges would be of an age when that kind of attention from a younger man is hugely flattering. Would a woman subjected to such fervent ogling really be capable of putting her romantic fantasies to one side when sentencing the fellow? This is much less of a problem for male judges, as very few villains would make lustful eyes at an old buffer in a wig, even in the hope of a lighter sentence.

The justified exclusion of women from the judiciary by no means implies that the men are doing a good job. Besides being too big for their boots, most of them are sorely lacking in imagination. As I see it, a judgement isn’t worth its salt unless it induces awed gasps of disbelief from the public gallery, followed by a hush in which the guilty man gapes like a fish that’s just seen Jimmy Savile in the nude. Occasionally you get a lateral-thinking judge who dreams up a new punishment, but most of them are stuck in the rut of passing the same old sentences for the same old crimes. What are the alternatives to a prison term or a fine? Here are three off the top of my hairy head:

Whatever happened to this form of rehabilitation? Roman emperors and medieval kings were banishing people all the time. The vast empty spaces of Greenland cry out for penitent humans to build igloos, pull sleds and feed the hungry polar bears.

Placing in stocks
Another one that was popular in the middle ages but has now fallen into disuse. I wouldn’t allow onlookers to throw tomatoes at the prisoners though, which is a waste of good fruit. If they must indulge their vindictive passions, let them daub the convicts with brightly-coloured dyes.

The dead leg
This would never work on gorillas, but I believe it’s highly effective on juvenile humans, the technique having been perfected in countless school playgrounds. One to be applied with caution and commonsense, I feel.

I have deliberately avoided mention of the death-penalty for fear of stirring up heated emotions. The only time I ever debated the issue was when I was a young circus ape. We performers had been invited to tea at the home of Reginald Bullshot, a retired army colonel who had invested in the circus. I happened to mention that some appalling serial killer ought to be fed to the lions.

“Executing a mass murderer won’t bring his victims back to life,” said Colonel Bullshot gravely. “It’s no good killing these blackguards after they’ve done the deed. You’ve got to kill ‘em before they get the chance.”

I scratched my head in confusion. “How do you tell which people are going to commit murder?” I asked.

“You can see it in their faces, by Jove!” exclaimed the Colonel. “All it takes is a bit of practice.”

Ever since then I have always carefully scrutinised the faces of humans for evidence of criminal intent. It must be admitted that the Colonel has a point. Quite a few humans – particularly young men – have the malevolent countenances one would expect of future hoodlums and assassins. But is it ever right to shoot a man simply because of his treacherous face? Thank goodness I’m a gorilla and don’t have to grapple with these complex moral questions.

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