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My day in court 1953

As I have said before, Wednesdays at Movietonews were clear-up days when routine work was done to get ready for the production of the next General Release which would start on the Thursday.  Lots of people didn’t bother to come in and those who did usually arrived late (and went early).

On such a day, I got in early to clear some files.  The only other one in at that time was Tommy Scales, the Make-up Editor.  Of course, the secretaries were in but they always worked a strict 9 to 5 regime.

At about 10.30 a large man entered my office.  He was over six foot high and weighed around sixteen stone.  He was in his early forties.  He was out of breath. 

He blurted out a story which didn’t make any sense the first time around.  He was keen to know if we had run a story in the previous year which concerned the moving of a printing press from one part of London to another.  I was always able to remember the stories in the reel and usually when they were issued.  If I couldn’t remember them, then I knew that they would have happened when I was on holiday.  I remembered the story concerning “The Daily Sketch” and “The News of The World” using the same printing press.  It was just a small “filler”, but we had included it.

I looked up the Make-up sheets and found the item.  The man then asked me if any other newsreel had used the story.  I found this amusing and said, “I can’t imagine anyone else wanting to use that story”, but I looked up the Comparative Statement, a form that was completed twice a week to show what was in all the newsreels for a given release date.  It showed the exclusives and the non exclusives.

I said, “That’s a strange enquiry, what is it for ?”  He told me the story.  It was a story that could only have been told on a mad Wednesday.

He said he was a solicitor and had a case going on at the Old Bailey and could a responsible representative of the company bring the two files as evidence at the trial.  I said that I would have to ask the Make-up Editor.  I went upstairs to speak to Tommy Scales.  I quickly told him the story and he said “Well I’m buggered if I’m going, isn’t there anyone else ?”  I said, “No, there’s you and there’s me”.  He said “Well you go”.

I had no choice but to go.  When we got outside into Soho Square, the solicitor had a cab waiting.  We set off in a hurry.  On the way, he told me more of the story.

It seems that a man was being accused of having sexual relations with a minor.  He said that he thought that she was nineteen and, in any case, denied the charge.  She said that they had had sexual intercourse after going to the cinema at the Odeon in Penge. He said that he remembered taking her to the Odeon in Penge, but he said that no sexual activity took place either after the visit to the cinema or any other time.  It seems that neither the accused or the victim could remember the main films they saw, but they could agree that they saw a newsreel that featured the story of the printing press.

The girl was very pregnant.

Old Bailey, London, from NW, photo by Nevilley...

Image via Wikipedia

When we got to the Old Bailey, I was ushered to a waiting seat outside No. 1 Court.

Eventually, I was called.  As I entered, I could see all the various “docks” one for the prisoner, one for the witnesses and one for the judge.  The judge was elevated above the hoi polloi.  High above everyone else was a gallery for the public.  I was sworn in in the witness box.

Apparently the Manager of the Odeon, Penge, had been quizzed concerning the fact that his cinema took the Movietonews Reel as first release and, therefore, would have shown the particular edition on a given date, for a period of three days, that I could verify with my files..

I was then asked by the defence council if I worked for Movetonews.  Had Movetonews issued a story concerning a printing press ?.  Could I say that no other newsreel had shown the same story ?.  The answer to all questions was “Yes”.

Then the prosecuting council had a go.  He was belligerent and wanted to know how I could state the facts.  I waved to two files and explained their purpose.  These were examined by both councils and their “seconds” and their solicitors.

I had done my stuff and then they wanted to keep the files as ”evidence”.  I said that I needed them and that, in any case, I could always furnish them with copies.  Reluctantly, they allowed me to depart with the files.

The whole point about my evidence was that the girl, as stated, was extremely pregnant and, had she conceived on the night we showed the moving of the printing press on our newsreel at the Odeon Penge, she would have given birth at least three weeks before the trial.

For some time, I searched the papers to find the outcome of the case, but, not to this day, did I find any reference to it.

However, it was a most interesting morning.  After all, not many people can say that they have given evidence at the No. 1 Court at the Old Bailey.

© Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com, 2010.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Main photo of the Old Bailey © Copyright Fan Yang and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

For other articles about Movietone click here.

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