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Insolvency Law

Expert guidance on all aspects of corporate and personal insolvency

01 JUN 2012

Judge Cecil Whiteley KC's lessons from the cross-examination of a Bankruptcy Messenger

I have recently acquired a copy of 'Brief Life' the 1942 autobiography of Judge Cecil Whiteley KC, The Common Serjeant of London. The book makes very interesting reading. There is one passage in particular that will be of interest to bankruptcy minded individuals. The passage details the author's influences during pupillage, particularly from his pupil master George Elliot. In the passage Whiteley describes his Elliot examining a bankruptcy clerk. He notes:

"After Muir had opened, at great length, a complicated case against an undischarged bankrupt who had committed a series of frauds and bankruptcy offences, the first witness called would be the messenger from the Bankruptcy Court merely to produce the file of the prisoner's bankruptcy, and this is what would follow in cross-examination: 

E: Good morning, Mr A. I hope I see you well this morning?

A: Yes, thank you, Mr Elliot.

E: That's good, Mr A. And the wife and the children the same?

A: Yes, thank you, Mr Elliot.

E: It's cold work for you, Mr A, having to bring this file here and to wait about the draughty corridors in this weather?

A: Yes, Mr Elliot. 

E: Now let's see, Mr A, how long is it since you and I have known one another? A good many years, isn't it? We are both growing old, Mr A.

A: Yes, Mr Elliot.

[Pause]

E: You don't know anything about this case, do you, Mr A?

A: No, Mr Elliot.

E: Ah, I thought not. Thank you, Mr A, I need not ask you any more questions. 

Stupid nonsense, and a waste of time no doubt and it irritated Muir, but by this time some of the Jury, who may have been perhaps a little bored by the opening speech, were thinking "What a charming little man this is" and Elliot's object had been achieved."

So history notes the role of a Bankruptcy Court messenger as a tool of advocacy! 

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