A HAM THAT CAN'T BE CURED
Jani Allan gives her considered verdict on the man who revealed her secret fantasies to Court Fourteen
GEORGE ALFRED CARMAN QC is the most feared criminal barrister in the land. Physically, he resembles a small bewigged ferret. When addressing the judge, little, pointed, pink hands make Uriah Heep ges- tures. 'Of course, my lord. I humbly submit, my lord,' he says. 'I am in your lordship's hands.'
If the truth be told, the judge is more often in his hands. One of Carman's accomplishments is being able to bully a Judge while letting him believe that he is making the decisions. That is what hap- pened in my case. The phrase that I will forever dread is, 'I am in your hands, Mr Carman,' since it inevitably preceded the Jury being sent out and Carman indulging in one of his endless legal arguments, the sequitur of which would be a piece of my evidence being ruled inadmissible.
While sucking up to the judge, Carman contented himself with shooting poisonous glances in my direction, impaling me on the flames of his blow-torch blue eyes.
It is said that the 63-year-old Carman had an adolescent flirtation with priest- hood before being called to the Bar. (It was during this period, apparently, that he lost Most of his Blackpool accent.) It is difficult to imagine Carman indulging in a flirtation of any description. Thrice married (he admits to only two wives in Who's Who, though under cross-examination I have every faith that he would be able to explain the memory lapse), these days he lives alone in a 'flee in the Temple. Outside the Courtroom, a bleached blonde, a score or so years his junior, loitered about loyally. While Carman chain-smoked efficiently, she mainly busied herself with investigating the contents of one of those large Louis Vuitton bags similar to those favoured by the concubines of rich, powerful men.
It is said that Carman practises in front of a mirror before a case; a ham that can't be cured. One has serious doubts whether he could ad lib breaking wind after a bowl of baked beans. But, while it is difficult to imagine Carman being swept away by the grand broom of passion, it is easy to specu- late as to the grounds for his two divorces: mental cruelty, perhaps?
'I put it to you, Ursula. You are a dan- gerous and accomplished liar who feels no remorse at leaving the cap off the tooth- paste tube,' etc. etc.
If a jury does indeed consist of 12 per- sons chosen to decide who has the best bar- rister, it has to be said that Carman wins hands down. That the 'evidence' provided by his client's — Channel 4's — witnesses was, I believe, as fishy as a trout in milk, if hugely entertaining, was no impediment to Carman. Carman's dictum is roughly the same as that I remember from teacher training college: 'Tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you've told them.'
Thus: 'Tell us what you saw, Miss Shaw.' Miss Shaw: 'A large white bottom.'
Carman: 'A large white bottom?' The- atrical pause. 'A large. White. Bottom. So you saw a large. White. Bottom . . . ?' Pro- tracted pause. Rolls reptilian eyes about the courtroom. 'And where was this [lip curled in distaste] large. White. Bottom?'
As a technique it is crude — meat- cleaver rather than scalpel — but highly effective. 'Killer' Carman is an appropriate sobriquet for this 5'3" barrister's bower boy.
When he is on less solid ground and the edifice of 'fact' that he has laboriously built up threatens to disintegrate, as happened when my barrister, Charles Gray QC, pro- duced the lock through which he proposed to invite Miss Shaw and the jury to peer in order to prove that it would have been physically impossible to see what she claimed to have seen through a keyhole, he retreats smartly into technicalities.
When the lock appeared Carman bounced to his feet. 'My lord,' he simpered, wringing his small, pink hands, 'we all know how perilous it is to invite the jury to become involved in experiments of this nature.'
In the 13 days that the trial lasted Car- man did as much bouncing up and down as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters. Enter the witness box Dori Weil, my clini- cal psychologist. Carman leaps up to object. Jury file out. Statement from Eugene Terre'blanche arrives in which he pointed out that one of Carman's witnesses was working for South African National Intelligence. Carman leaps up to protest most strongly. Jury file out. And so on.
In addition to the impressive catalogue of sociopathic crimes of which he accused me, but somewhat less widely reported, were Carman's attacks on my political stance.
To this end he embarked on a leisurely trawl through a selection of columns I had written for a South African publication.
`You described Nelson Mandela as the Chocolate Redeemer,' he said, affecting utter disbelief. 'The Chocolate Redeemer?' He enunciated half-a-dozen syllables. The court tittered. 'The Jailed. Martyr ... '
I pointed out that Mandela was tried and found guilty of high treason. Besides, the description was, in fact, one of Dr Man- gosothu Buthelezi's.
'Hnnnnh,' said Carman unpleasantly. He is not, strangely, particularly eloquent. Car- man's equivalent to the Seles grunt is possi- bly more off-putting because of the unpredictability with which it is employed. In the middle of Miss Linda Shaw's cross-
examination, just as she had taken refuge behind her Charles II hairstyle, sobbing rhetorically 'How long is this nightmare going to go on?', he sounded a fortissimo `hnnnh!' which startled even my phlegmat- ic solicitor. Further into the cross-examina- tion he — for some reason — brought up the fact that I had described Winnie Man- dela's wigs as looking as though they had been bought from a vending machine. Car- man glowered.
`What about Neil Kinnock?' He then rounded on me. 'You called him an arch pillock.'
I said I felt no further elaboration was necessary. More titters in court. When he attempted to bully me with the charge of being a racist, I realised that he is not a particularly sophisticated political animal. He earns his money by the sweat of his brow-beating. Carman's preferred script relies on ritual humiliation of the deeply personal kind.
A stolen diary that I had written in 1984, which, Carman assured the judge, had `appeared mysteriously' by courier one minute after I was in the witness box, was manna from a muck-raker's heaven. Since Carman found the notion that the entries were in the main fantasy adjacent to pre- posterous, one must presume that he has never heard of Nancy Friday's best-selling book of women's fantasies, My Secret Gar- den. But armed as he was with the stolen diary, for the three and a half days I spent in the witness box my feelings were close to those I would have facing Waqar You- nis on a cricket pitch. My response to, `Would you commit adultery with a mar- ried man?', which I took not to mean in the imperfect subjunctive, provided Car- man with the hangman's noose.
In the end the jury were in Carman's small, pink hands. With each day their 24 eyes became more glazed in appearance. No doubt the result of dreaming of large. White. Bottoms.