Men in Black
October 20, 2016Posted by on
Sir James Faulkner QC regarded juries with disdain, thinking the uneducated hoi-palloi who now sat on them as being incapable of grasping the finer points of common law and particularly those involving finance and economics. Nevertheless, he had just delivered what he considered to be a flawless case for the prosecution. His innate hubris convincing him that the lucid presentation and eloquence of his delivery must surely have convinced even the simplest mind on the jury of the defendant’s guilt. Sitting down he brushed the front of his gown, a preening habit he had developed since taking the silk, smiling self assuredly whilst nodding to The Honourable Mr Justice Pettigrew, confident that he had impressed the judge. In his own mind at least, the outcome of the trial in his favour was assured.
Aware that the jury shared his ennui after having endured such a marathon delivery Mr Justice Pettigrew looked at the pocket watch that he always placed on the bench before him, relieved that it indicated a suitable time for him to call an adjournment until the following morning.
The next day at the Crown Court Mr Justice Pettigrew recapped Sir James’s delivery for the jury: ‘Members of the jury I shall be as brief as possible in recounting the prosecution’s case against the defendant Mr Penn. The prosecution explained how this counterfeiting operation was perpetrated and the circumstances that led to the defendant’s apprehension. Telling you at some length how such counterfeiting impacted on you all; by increasing the money supply, debasing the currency and causing rampant inflation, thereby reducing your standard of living. Given the quantity of counterfeit notes that the prosecution claims that the defendant put into circulation, it is entirely possible the economy might, as the prosecution put it, have entirely collapsed. Only the vigilance of The Bank of England in detecting a flaw in the counterfeit notes prevented such an economic collapse. The act of counterfeiting the currency is correctly described by the prosecution as a nefarious act that is not only illegal but is morally indefensible.’
The judge then asked Sir James if he would like to add anything.
‘No, my Lord, it was succinct and to the point.’
Turning to Harald Godwinson the judge pointedly said, ‘I trust Mr Godwinson that anything you may say in defence of your client will also be succinct and to the point?’
Harald Godwinson stood up and politely addressed the judge, ‘Indeed my Lord, that is my intention. My client, Mr Peter Penn strongly denies that he made the counterfeit money, or of any intent to cause the economic chaos that my learned friend so graphically described. If I may my Lord, I should like to point out to the jury that while my learned friend gave a factual account of the detection and apprehension of my client, his elaborate and somewhat embellished description of the effect my client’s alleged counterfeiting could have on the economy is hardly credible.’
‘Really Mr Godwinson?’
‘My client never intended to disrupt the economy with counterfeit money my Lord, quite the opposite .’
‘Intent to destabilise the economy is something that the jury must take into consideration Mr Godwinson.’
‘Indeed my Lord, if that is case, but it is difficult to draw such a conclusion when what we would understand as cash is less than 2% of all monies currently in circulation, including some billions in the form of coins. Most money in the economy — over 98% — exists in digital form, being transferred electronically as on a credit card and is issued mainly by commercial banks. Vast quantities of actual cash would be required to destabilise the economy. My client claims that were it not for Milton Friedman’s notion of helicopter money he would not be in court today my Lord.’
“What on earth has Milton Friedman and helicopter money to do with the case before us Mr Godwinson.’
‘If I may my Lord, members of the jury may not be aware that Friedman was an economist who posited the principle of helicopter money. Simply stated, that if The Bank of England wanted to raise inflation and output in the economy, which both the bank and the government agree is necessary, then one of the most effective tools would simply be a once only gift of cash by the government. Increasing the amount of cash in circulation would boost spending and restore economic growth.’
The judge sighed heavily, ’Not more lessons on economic theory Mr Godwinson! I am sure that the jury and myself fail to see what any of this has to do with the case against your client.’
‘It is entirely the case my Lord and the reason he is in this court today. My client admits to having a reputation for being able to counterfeit currency that is undetectable by machines in common use and, most importantly, is able to put such counterfeit currency into circulation. Following his last term in prison for a counterfeiting offence my client determined to go straight, so to speak, and retire to his little cottage in Bexhill-on-Sea to write his memoirs. However, he was approached by two strangers he describes as men in black who, in my client’s words, made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The offer meant going with them to a large country house where he met with two other men who said that they needed his help. These two men then explained the principle of helicopter money to him and their need of his assistance, assuring my client that not only would he be saving the British economy but that he would be substantially rewarded and receive immunity for any complicity in their proposal. Intimidated by the men in black and despite the assurances, unsure of his fate at this point, my client felt compelled to agree to their proposal.’
Sir James Faulkner QC could hardly contain himself in his wish to exploit the admitted previous conviction, his hubris soared at thought of yet another case he could not fail to win in the light of such an implausible defence.
Seemingly unconcerned Harald Godwinson continued, ‘Following his arrest, my client made a photofit of the two men who had promised him immunity. However, the prosecution denies the existence of these photofits nor have I been given access to any statements made by the two men who persuaded my client to be their accomplice, nor any made by those who my client has described as men in black and who visited him following his arrest.’
‘Is this true Sir James?’
An indignant Sir James replied, ‘Certainly not my Lord, my learned friend Mr Godwinson has received all the information put into evidence that I have. The defendant’s story is clearly a fabrication repeated here to distract the court from his guilt.’
Turning to Harald Godwinson, the judge said, ‘Are we really expected to believe your client’s account Mr Godwinson?’
‘My lord, I have no reason other than to accept in good faith what my client has told me. In my wish to present the court with the veracity of my client’s account, I engaged a photofit artist to reproduce those my client submitted to the police.’
‘So where are they Mr Godwinson? I have no record of them being given in evidence.’
‘I have them here my Lord. I thought it best that you see them first to decide whether or not they should be submitted into evidence.’
Harald Godwinson handed two photofit pictures to the judge who became increasingly agitated, continually looked at each one in turn before angrily saying to the two barristers, ‘My chambers immediately.’
In the judge’s chambers Mr Justice Pettigrew had laid out the two photofits on his desk. ‘Have you seen these before Sir James.’
‘But that’s . . .’ spluttered Sir James.
‘Yes, yes, I know who they look like. Have you ever seen these before?’ the judge repeated.
‘No, my Lord never! I wasn’t aware that any photofits existed until my learned friend here raised the issue. Surely these can’t be taken seriously, it makes a mockery of the whole trial.’
‘Quite Sir James! Are you going to object to these photofits being put into evidence?’
‘I certainly am my Lord and if they are, will take great pleasure in disproving the authenticity of this concocted evidence.’
Harald Godwinson interjected, ‘Sir James may be eager to refute the evidence my Lord, but will he be able to produce the original photofits submitted to the police? Will he also be able to present statements from the two men in the photofits who offered my client immunity or any of these men in black, and will any of those involved appear for cross examination in court?’
‘Well, Sir James, what do you say?’
Perhaps for the first time in his career Sir James looked nonplussed.
Turning to Harald Godwinson, Mr Justice Pettigrew said, ‘Unless Sir James can do as you ask Mr Godwinson I am going to exclude these photofits from evidence. Do you agree?’
‘I do my Lord, however my client’s defence is very dependent on his discourse with the two men in the photofits and his meetings with the men in black. I must be allowed to present my client’s version of these events to the jury.’
Looking at Sir James the judge queried, ‘Sir James?’
His hubris failing him Sir James weakly replied, ’I must request an adjournment my Lord.’
‘Very well, we will adjourn until tomorrow noon, I have no wish to see my court turned into a charade. Meanwhile Sir James, you are instructed to produce the original photofits here in chambers and any statements held by the police that have not been submitted into evidence, should either exist.’
The following day in the judge’s chamber, Sir James said with some chagrin that he had only been informed of the police investigation being as he described it in court. Adding that the police had admitted hearing the defendant’s story claiming a promised immunity but that his story was so unbelievable they had dismissed it, especially when the two men who had guaranteed him immunity were portrayed in a photofit. These being regarding as a ruse by the defendant had been destroyed and not thought worth mentioning to the prosecution. They now admitted that two men in black had visiting the defendant whilst he was in custody but did not disclose this to the prosecution on the grounds of public interest immunity. Sir James apologised for being unaware of any visit made to the defendant by men in black and the destruction of any photofit, which he had never seen.
‘If you intend to claim public interest immunity for anyone involved in this case Sir James, I should remind the Crown Prosecution Service that any decision to revoke it in court rests with me.’
‘How will you respond Sir James, if Mr Godwinson seeks to confirm the veracity of his client’s account by asking that you produce evidence and witnesses that he can cross examine? Will you seek to invoke public interest immunity?’
Harald Godwinson interjected again, ‘I would only do that my Lord if Sir James were to challenge my client’s account of this affair.’
‘Then let us bring this trial to a hasty conclusion, with both of you knowing that I will not support any requests to invoke public interest immunity and you Mr Godwinson will only make reference to men in black, whoever you may be referring to.’
In his closing remarks to the jury Mr Harald Godwinson said that he would like to add an important fact to his learned friend’s lesson on economics, as he put it, ‘The government only collects money, dispenses it and invariably borrows it, it does not control the actual issue of money in any form. Increased borrowing is not attractive to the government, which is something that it would have to do if The Bank of England were either to print or issue digital helicopter money on its behalf, which is how the defendant became embroiled in this affair. My client contends that it was only his underworld reputation as a counterfeiter and the credibility it gave him with those who would put counterfeit currency into circulation that brought him to the attention of — as he has described them — these men in black.’
‘He denies printing any counterfeit currency and despite his knowledge of counterfeit currency, my client failed to detect any flaw in the notes given to him, they appeared genuine and he assumed that he was simply taking part in some elaborate helicopter money scheme. He regularly collected notes from the men in black and exchanged whatever legitimate monies he had received for those notes already put into circulation. This arrangement continued without any mishaps until the time of his arrest.’
‘According to my learned friend Sir James, the arrest was based on an anonymous tip off. The jury may find it odd that this tip off was given to police after my client met with these men in black and that the police waiting to apprehend him when he arrived home found what are claimed to be counterfeit notes in his possession. You may wonder why only a small quantity of these counterfeit notes have been entered as evidence. You may also wonder why there is no record of him being put under surveillance; no apprehension of any men in black, no forensic evidence that my client made the alleged counterfeit notes, no discovery of any materials or resources for making counterfeit notes and no attempt made to find either.’
‘I am sure we are all aware members of the jury that the billions of pounds we call cash is insignificant compared to the billions of pounds of digital money used by the government to bail out commercial banks. This, and the government’s strategy of quantitative easing, has placed an enormous debt burden on the taxpayer. The loans made by commercial banks in digital form point to the greed of bankers bringing the economy to the point of collapse.’
With increasing exasperation Mr Justice Pettigrew asked Harald Godwinson if his talk of commercial banks intended to lead anywhere.
‘I simply want to make the point my Lord that far from destabilising the economy, the amount of money my client put into circulation on behalf of these men in black is trivial when compared to the greed of the banks. Coupled with the largesse of government bail outs with money that it does not have and the new digital money created by quantitative easing, commercial banks are further enriched courtesy of the honest taxpayer.’
‘Quite Mr Godwinson, but when are you going to get to the point’, the judge asked.
‘The point is my Lord that despite the burden that greedy commercial banks have placed on the economy, all indications point to an economic revival since my client was induced to be an accomplice in putting helicopter money into the economy. An expansion in the amount of money in circulation has encouraged people to spend more freely, increased economic activity, pushed inflation back up to The Bank of England’s target and created a situation in which everybody wins.’
‘Other than those left holding counterfeit currency Mr Godwinson!’
‘My Lord, any counterfeit money is now in the hands of either criminals or the commercial banks if we can make that distinction. The criminals have already exchanged legitimate money for that which they assumed to be counterfeit. As The Bank of England has informed the industry of the flaw in what they are calling counterfeit notes, banks can no longer distribute them to the public in their ATM’s. It is estimated that very few are held by the public, the major losers here are the criminals and the banks my Lord.’
Mr Justice Pettigrew presented the jury with a summary of the case against the defendant as presented by the prosecution and the defence. Telling them that having pleaded not guilty to the offences with which he is charged it fell on them to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Based on the evidence alone, their duty is to pass a verdict on each of the three charges set against the defendant namely, that he made counterfeit currency, tendered it for his own purposes and distributed it to other parties knowing it to be counterfeit.
In concluding, he told them that they should seek the court’s advice on issues that they did not understand, but that they should confine their questions to matters of fact and the application of law. The court was unable to advise them on abstractions such as, why bad bankers are knighted and good counterfeiters indicted.
Following three attempts by the jury to deliver a majority verdict on any of the charges, the Forman of the jury informed Mr Justice Pettigrew of a deadlock within the jury on each and there being no likelihood of this changing. Consequently, the judge declared a mistrial and dismissed the jury.
In his chambers Mr Justice Pettigrew asked Sir James Faulkner QC if he intended to seek a retrial.
‘No, my Lord, the Crown Prosecution Service is of the opinion that it would not be in the public interest to do so.’
The Honourable Mr Justice Pettigrew is now Lord Pettigrew and Mr Harald Godwinson is now Sir Harald Godwinson QC. Sir James Faulkner QC is now Lord Faulkner and a Justice of the Supreme Court.
The advance on his memoirs offered to Mr Peter Penn has enabled him to move to a new home in Sandbanks Dorset. The publisher insisting on strict editorial control over the content of his memoirs and publishing rights on any other works that he may produce. Mr Penn’s publisher has even supplied him with a ghost writer to assist him in writing his memoirs, an attractive young lady who always wears a black suit and reminds Peter of La Femme Nikita.