The closing stage of a recent hearing in a UK court included an extraordinary exchange between the chairman of the magistrates and the plaintiff, Ephraim Wharfedale. It is given below:
Chairman: Now, Mr Wharfedale, this seems to be a strange case. Both you and the defendant, Mr Grobe, are representing yourselves and we have already heard what he has to say. He claims that he had never heard of you before this action began, that he has no idea why you initiated it and that he has appeared only because he was required to do so. I would now like to hear from you.
Wharfedale: It is all quite simple, Your Honour. The defendant attacked me with a most fearsome weapon, causing me bodily harm and mental anguish.
Chairman: I see. What was the instrument he used and what injury was done?
Wharfedale: He struck me in the face with a white cabbage. As a result I had a lengthy nosebleed and suffered emotional consequences.
Chairman: When did the incident occur?
Wharfedale: On the tenth of November, 1816.
Chairman: I don’t understand. You say you are speaking of something that took place over two hundred years ago.
Wharfedale: That is correct.
Chairman: Remarkable. You seem to be a relatively young man, as does Mr Grobe. Why has it taken you over two centuries to pursue this matter?
Wharfedale: That is easily explained, Your Honour. The assault took place when Mr Grobe and I were in earlier incarnations. I suppose he thought he could get away with it, but I imagine he reckoned without karma, which has now caught up with him.
Chairman: My word, we are in deep waters here. Who were the two of you at the time to which you refer?
Wharfedale: His name was Sprode and mine was Swaledale.
Chairman: You seem to have an affinity with the Yorkshire Dales. I imagine that if we were to go back even further, you were probably Mr Wensleydale in a yet earlier incarnation.
Wharfedale: Good try, Your Honour. I was in fact Mrs Wensleydale.
Chairman: Were you indeed? So am I to take it that one may come back at one time or another as a member of either gender?
Wharfedale: Yes, or in any status between the two.
Chairman: This is all too much, Mr . . . sorry Mrs Wens . . . er . . . Mr Swale . . . er . . . Mr Wharfedale. This is a secular court and we cannot deal with such affairs as the one you have raised. In any case, you are out of luck in another respect.
Chairman: Because there is a timebar on the kind of misdeed in question.
Wharfedale: What does that mean?
Chairman: It means that after a certain period an occurrence of that kind should not give rise to legal proceedings. I don’t know offhand why this particular one has been allowed to do so. However, I need not consult my two colleagues here before informing you that the charge is dismissed.
Wharfedale: Hah, just my luck. I suppose I should have expected that there would be no justice for a poor man.
Chairman (after a brief word with his co-magistrates): You are about to be even poorer because you have to produce the sum of two hundred pounds for wasting the court’s time. Begone, and make sure that you pay the fine before you shed your current incarnation, perhaps to return as Mr, Mrs or Ms Arkengarthdale.
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