19th October 2016 would have been the 98th birthday of the former judge Sir Leslie Boreham. As the son of a former chief constable it was perhaps inevitable that he would work in a legal capacity and in 1965 he was appointed Queen’s Counsel, where friends knew him as ‘a gentle and courteous silk of the old school’. He served the profession diligently, eventually becoming a judge and having a number of high-profile cases coming before him. In 1981 he was instrumental in convincing the attorney general Sir Michael Havers that Peter Sutcliffe was deceiving doctors and Sutcliffe should not be able to use a defence of diminished responsibility for his crimes. As a judge he was known to favour hard sentences, and Sutcliffe received 20 life sentences with a recommendation that he should serve at least 30 years.
Boreham was also known to be sympathetic to women. In 1972 he sentenced a man to 15 months for an indecent assault on a female acquaintance. Although the man claimed that he had perhaps misread the signs, Boreham said, “I cannot believe it takes 20 minutes for a man to understand that when a woman says no, it means no.” In 1974 he gave an abused wife a suspended sentence after she stabbed her violent husband to death with scissors, and in a 1986 civil case he awarded £96,000 to a woman whose breasts had been wrongly removed, stating that the loss was “difficult for a mere male” to comprehend.
On 19th March, 2002, Linda Razzell was spotted by an old friend driving through Highworth, near Swindon. Linda was driving a car that the friend didn’t recognise and she recalls thinking, “Linda has a new car, good for her”. The two women made eye contact and the friend recalls thinking that Linda looked cross, which was quite understandable. According to the police, she’d been murdered by her estranged husband Glyn the day before.
I’m a big fan of podcasts. I have been since I first discovered them, probably because I’m just a geek for radio generally. I like all sorts of podcasts, whether they’re factual, like the BBC’s excellent ‘Witness’ series, or fictional, like ‘The Truth’; humorous ones such as ‘Football Weekly’, or topical ones like ‘The Political Party’; and ones that simply transcend pigeonholing, refusing to obey either the laws of causality or the rules of cricket. There is only of of those, of course: ‘Welcome to Night Vale’.
The BBC World Service ‘Documentaries’ series is another favourite. The standard is extremely high and the choice of topics fascinating. “The Killing of Farkhunda”, a recent episode, was exceptional (if horrific. If you don’t know the story of this 28 year old woman murdered by a mob, you should check it out). So when I saw there was a new episode, I downloaded it immediately.
So goes the first recorded clerihew. For those of you who are uninitiated – which is to say, practically everyone of sound mind and body – a clerihew is a four-line poem with an AABB rhyme scheme. Named for its owner, former Telegraph journalist Edmund Clerihew Bentley, the clerihew is a comic poetic form with deliberately exaggerated features and a single subject, which must be a person of some note.
You’re sitting in Starbucks with a friend, just idly chatting about this and that; not anything in particular, just a conversation sparked off by a chance remark. Starbucks is full but that’s okay, you’re just passing the time of day and enjoying the chance to catch up with a friend.
Suddenly, a stranger comes and sits at your table with you.
“Start again,” he says. You look at him, not quite knowing what to make of either his sudden appearance or strange demand.