It’s an odd thing to find oneself in a Magistrates Court being nudged on the upper thigh by a defence counsel.
But then, I’m not a regular on the court rounds. Maybe this sort of thing happens all the time. All I know is that while she may have been a solicitor, she was getting far too close to my briefs for comfort.
I’d been sent to the Roma Street mags to wait for the appearance of one *name omitted for legal reasons*. Let’s just call him “That Guy”.
That Guy had been brought in the night before on 20 child sexual assault allegations. Needless to say, it’s all on the alleged grotty side. Allegedly.
(The media interest in this case was compounded by the fact that That Guy was a one-time suspect in a high-profile unsolved triple murder case. Some news outlets have connected the dots; and I’m sure keen Googlers can let their fingers do the linking.)
We waited around court for two hours before police prosecutors got to That Guy. It was during that time that I identified her – a pint-sized storm in a peach dress, matching jacket, and brunette bob.
That Guy’s solicitor.
She flitted and flurried about the court, in various stages of pique with the goings-on. Obviously she had really taken the family’s emotion surrounding the case to heart. Unfortunately, I had made the mistake of sitting on the left-hand side of the public gallery, on the aisle in the front row. Friends and family of That Guy, including a vocal toddler, decided to fill the seats around me.
The seat directly next to me was reserved for Peach Storm herself.
She was up and down like a well-heeled Energizer Bunny, her half-scrawny, half-sinewy calves pulsating under the tension. I was trying to stay neutral and removed, by facing inwards towards the aisle, and concentrating on scribbling random doodles* in my notepad.
Then I felt it. A soft nudge on my thigh. Then again.
I turned to face Her Peachiness.
“Take my card,” she half-hissed, half-whispered.
I looked down. Curled in the hand that was making such close connection with my upper legs was a business card.
“You’re a journalist, aren’t you?”
“Er...yes,” I stuttered, and took the card.
“I’m acting for That Guy,” she said. Then, with wide eyes and a knowing nod, she said:
“We’ll talk later”.
Fumbling, I shoved the card inside the pages of my notepad, and returned to staring at my lap. Or the clock on the wall. Or the back of the police prosecutor’s head. Anywhere but next to me.
The matter was eventually adjourned after the magistrate decided she needed time to review That Guy’s criminal history. Peach Storm didn’t conduct the representation herself; she’d conscripted a barrister into doing that, but sat beside her making notes, muttering and generally looking unimpressed with police and court staff. On adjournment, she led family and friends on the exit march from court, taking up position next to a handy concrete garden box, dumping her neat little black and red handbag, and whisking out a long cigarette to aid in her breaktime briefing of That Guy’s nearest and dearest.
The cameras began to encroach upon her, on the chance she might have something to say.
Peach Storm wasn’t in a mood to disappoint.
Cigarette in hand, and doing her best Bette Davis, she looked over her shoulders at the cameras and declared “My client will vigorously defend the charges!”, before turning back to continue her conversation with the barrister.
It was a marvellously dramatic moment.
Later that afternoon, once the bail hearing had been finally adjourned for the day (pending a decision Friday), we waited outside for Peach Storm to make her final exit from the court. She strode out into a pack of twelve or fifteen journalists and cameramen, who immediately bunched in close to her seeking comment.
She said a few things, such as “It’s not over yet” and “The family is devastated” as she marched purposefully away from the court, causing journos to trip and stumble into each other as they tried to keep up. The cameramen had less trouble; walking backwards is a regular activity for them. Peachy stopped for a brief moment to retrieve her hapless barrister from inside the scrum, before declaring she had “No further comment!” and striding away.
We all exchanged glances and shakes of the head. “Weird,” was the general consensus. Peach Storm had obviously loved the drama of it all. I relayed the story of my impromptu thigh touch; holding up the business card as proof. A few of the other journos jotted down her number. No doubt she’ll be getting a few calls on Friday.
As for me, her card remains in my notepad. I’m yet to decide if I’m going to take the plunge and ring. But what do I say?
“Hi, Peachy. Just wanted to say – you really touched me today.”
*No, not THAT kind of doodle.