September 18, 2020

Courtroom, the poor man’s theatre

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The Courtroom, The Poor Man’s Theatre, is a collection of anecdotes taken from real-life dramas in the courtrooms of the Caribbean.

The book, written by Mr. Justice Kipling Douglas, a retired judge of the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, and retired Chief Justice of the Turks and Caicos Islands, covers a span of nearly four decades.

It is divided into three sections, named after the three jurisdictions where the judge presided, and contains nearly 100 entertaining stories. Some of them are funny, others more serious, but all are a fair sprinkling of the Judge’s keen wit.

“I started writing the book about two years ago,” Judge Douglas, 81, said. “I was invited to talk at the Rotarian club and chose ‘The Courtroom’ as a topic.”

The club members showed a good deal of interest.

“It occurred to me that if people showed so much interest I should write it down – the more I wrote the more cases came back to me,” he said.

The anecdotes describe intimate details related to courtroom procedures as well the maneuvers of agents and officers of the court, and reveal the whispered confidences and thoughts that shape the final judgments.

The cases in the book concern a wide range of different kinds of case, including arson, indecent assault, drug trafficking, obeah, divorce, prostitution, death by misadventure and many other fascinating matters.

One of the funniest stories in the book concerned a charge of indecent exposure brought against a tourist who had taken all his clothes off for a swim on a deserted stretch of Seven Mile Beach.

“When the officer arrived at the spot where the clothes lay she saw the defendant swimming several yards from the shore. By doing so she instigated the offence of indecent exposure for which she arrested him when he complied with her request. At that point the man reached for his clothes, whereupon she stopped him and told him that he must not interfere with the evidence,” the book says.

The tourist was only allowed to put on his clothes after being driven all the way to the police station.

“It was astonishing that such a charge actually reached the court. There was no evidence that when the man undressed he was aware that he could be seen by anyone, and therefore could not be said to have acted indecently at the time,” the book says. 

Judge Douglas actually began a career in Journalism, ending up as editor of the West Indian Life Magazine, before deciding to study law in his late twenties.

After studying Latin, a requirement for a law student at that time, Judge Douglas entered the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in London, where he took his bar exams.

Judge Douglas will be attending a special book-signing event at Hobbies and Books in George Town between 12 and 2, on both Friday and Saturday this week.

Photo Caption: Mr. Justice Kipling Douglas (ret) and his new book, The Courtroom, The Poor Man’s Theatre

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