12 March 2010

Strange judicial observation of the week...

Reading the indictments in criminal appeals isn't generally the stuff to reaffirm your faith in the right-reason of humanity. Typically, the events are narrated in such a manner that most of the context is stripped away - the whys and the wherefores which might explain a terrible deed lapsing instead into legally significant pieces of information, inculpating or exculpating the pannel. For grimness and rank stupidity, the tale told in Gary Pollard v. H.M. Advocate is unexceptional. A cretin's melée in Tollcross, in Glasgow. What is more curious is that Lord Bracadale adds particular ghoulish detail to the narration of the offence, which casts in Gothic (and faintly absurd relief) the subsequent story of how the two outfitted victims both came to be struck across the head with "a pick-axe handle or similar instrument"...

The circumstances, as disclosed in the evidence, are set out in the report by the trial judge as follows. On 30 October 2004 a Halloween party was held at the Tavern Bar in Tollcross Road, Glasgow. Many of the people attending the party were in fancy dress. George Fleming, the complainer in charge 1, was dressed as Uncle Fester, a character in the television series the Addams Family, and Edward McDermott, the complainer in charge 2, was dressed as Pugsley, a character from the same programme. Sometime after 11 pm a boy came into the bar and reported that something was happening outside. Mr McDermott went out and saw a number of youths running about, shouting at anyone who came out of the bar; they appeared to be looking for a fight.

Tollcross Road runs east and west. Canmore Street forms a T‑junction with the south side of Tollcross Road some distance east of the Tavern Bar. Between the Tavern Bar and the junction there is a bus garage and outside is a bus stop. The youths observed by Mr McDermott were shouting at women at the bus stop. He told them to leave the women alone before chasing them away. Mr McDermott stopped before the junction with Canmore Road and saw Mr Fleming coming along the road. He went towards Mr Fleming and heard shouting from Canmore Street. Mr McDermott and Mr Fleming went to see what the shouting was about. Somebody shouted "Run". Mr McDermott believed that the call was directed at himself and Mr Fleming, who was nearby. Mr McDermott ran into Tollcross Road in the direction of the Tavern with someone chasing him. Meanwhile Mr Fleming was being chased by somebody else on the pavement. The person chasing Mr McDermott was carrying something which could have been about 3 feet long. Mr McDermott was struck on the head on the left hand side at the back. As a result he fell in the middle of the road. Mr McDermott sustained a head injury which required stitching. Mr Fleming was also attacked and sustained much more serious injuries including fractures to his upper and lower jaw, his left eye socket, his nose and his cheek bone. He required to have plates inserted in his face and, despite two operations, he was left permanently blind in his left eye and with a hearing problem in his left ear. At the time of the trial his face was still numb and his speech was affected. So far as the events of the night were concerned he recalled having left the Tavern Bar to buy cigarettes. He heard shouting and decided to go back.

The next thing he recalled was wakening up in hospital.

Heaven knows if he was still wearing his (presumably blood-spattered) Uncle Fester costume at the time...


  1. "Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc." We gladly feast on those who would subdue us. Not just pretty words.

  2. They do seem like rather retro costume choices. As I recall, the latest attempt to resuscitate (or should that be, reanimate the undead...) Addams family movie genre was during the 1990s. Nowadays, all the chaps probably yearn to dress up as Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow. That said, it may be that the flower of Glaswegian manhood is insufficiently beautiful to pull that particular part off - being reduced to the limited stock of stocky, baldy and beer-swelled alternative characters.