Miles Kington in The Independant Newspaper, 15/16 October 2002.
When I first read this I cried with laughter. It still has that effect.
High Court Hang-ups
15 October 2002
A most extraordinary trial is going on in the High Court at the moment in which a man named Chrysler is accused of stealing more than 40,000 coat hangers from hotels round the world. He admits his guilt, but in his defence he claims that – well, perhaps it would be simpler just to bring you a brief extract from the trial. We join the case at the point where Chrysler has just taken the stand.
Counsel: What is your name?
Chrysler: Chrysler. Arnold Chrysler.
Counsel: Is that your own name?
Chrysler: Whose name do you think it is?
Counsel: I am just asking if it is your name.
Chrysler: And I have just told you it is. Why do you doubt it?
Counsel: It is not unknown for people to give a false name in court.
Chrysler: Which court?
Counsel: This court.
Chrysler: What is the name of this court?
Counsel: This is No 5 Court.
Chrysler: No, that is the number of this court. What is the name of this court?
Counsel: It is quite immaterial what the name of this court is!
Chrysler: Then perhaps it is immaterial if Chrysler is really my name.
Counsel: No, not really, you see because...
Judge: Mr Lovelace?
Counsel: Yes, m'lud?
Judge: I think Mr Chrysler is running rings round you already. I would try a new line of attack if I were you.
Counsel: Thank you, m'lud.
Chrysler: And thank you from ME, m'lud. It's nice to be appreciated.
Judge: Shut up, witness.
Chrysler: Willingly, m'lud. It is a pleasure to be told to shut up by you. For you, I would...
Judge: Shut up, witness. Carry on, Mr Lovelace.
Counsel: Now, Mr Chrysler – for let us assume that that is your name – you are accused of purloining in excess of 40,000 hotel coat hangers.
Chrysler: I am.
Counsel: Can you explain how this came about?
Chrysler: Yes. I had 40,000 coats which I needed to hang up.
Counsel: Is that true?
Counsel: Then why did you say it?
Chrysler: To attempt to throw you off balance.
Counsel: Off balance?
Chrysler: Certainly. As you know, all barristers seek to undermine the confidence of any hostile witness, or defendant. Therefore it must be equally open to the witness, or defendant, to try to shake the confidence of a hostile barrister.
Counsel: On the contrary, you are not here to indulge in cut and thrust with me. You are only here to answer my questions.
Chrysler: Was that a question?
Chrysler: Then I can't answer it.
Judge: Come on, Mr Lovelace! I think you are still being given the run-around here. You can do better than that. At least, for the sake of the English bar, I hope you can.
Counsel: Yes, m'lud. Now, Mr Chrysler, perhaps you will describe what reason you had to steal 40,000 coat hangers?
Chrysler: Is that a question?
Chrysler: It doesn't sound like one. It sounds like a proposition which doesn't believe in itself. You know – "Perhaps I will describe the reason I had to steal 40,000 coat hangers... Perhaps I won't... Perhaps I'll sing a little song instead..."
Judge: In fairness to Mr Lovelace, Mr Chrysler, I should remind you that barristers have an innate reluctance to frame a question as a question. Where you and I would say, "Where were you on Tuesday?", they are more likely to say, "Perhaps you could now inform the court of your precise whereabouts on the day after that Monday?". It isn't, strictly, a question, and it is not graceful English but you must pretend that it is a question and then answer it, otherwise we will be here for ever. Do you understand?
Chrysler: Yes, m'lud.
Judge: Carry on, Mr Lovelace.
Counsel: Mr Chrysler, why did you steal 40,000 hotel coat hangers, knowing as you must have that hotel coat hangers are designed to be useless outside hotel wardrobes?
Chrysler: Because I build and sell wardrobes which are specially designed to take nothing but hotel coat hangers.
Sensation in court. More of this tomorrow, I hope.
16 October 2002
Yesterday I brought you part of an extraordinary High Court case in which Mr Arnold Chrysler stands accused of stealing thousands of hotel clothes hangers. His defence is that he manufactures wardrobes that can only take hotel clothes hangers, and he can only get hotel hangers from hotels. As a service to any of us who have ever taken anything home from a hotel, I bring you a further extract from this trial today.
Counsel: Now, Mr Chrysler, am I right in saying that hotel clothes hangers do not have hooks on top but little studs that will only work on special racks?
Chrysler: That is correct.
Counsel: This design arose because so many hotel hangers were stolen?
Chrysler: That is correct.
Counsel: And they had no option but to change the design to stop them being stolen?
Chrysler: That is not correct.
Counsel: That is not correct?
Chrysler: No. The world of hotels had not one, but two options. They could change the design of the way they were hung, yes, but they could also cheapen the hangers. They could very easily have given guests inexpensive plastic or metal hangers they would never have missed when they were stolen. But that would have lowered the tone of the hotel. Hotels, even hotels in a chain, like to have a touch of class. They like giving guests high-class solid wood hangers. It makes them feel good about themselves. It also makes them worth stealing.
Counsel: And people come to you, do they, asking you to make special wardrobes so that they can use stolen clothes hangers?
Chrysler: It isn't so much the fact that they are stolen that makes them attractive. You have to remember that many top businessmen spend more of their time in hotels than in their own home. They become used to hotel life. They think of hotels as home. Therefore they become used to hotel hangers and think of them as normal, and on the rare occasions when they spend some time at home they can't stand these fiddly things with hooks which you and I may think of as normal but which the business traveller thinks of as loose-fitting and badly designed. So they come to me and get me to make a hotel-style wardrobe.
Counsel: Are you seriously suggesting that there are people who prefer hotel life to home life?
Chrysler: Certainly. A lot of businessmen would never go home if they had the chance. So when they get home they like to recreate the hotel experience in their own house. Many of my clients have their own mini-bars in their bedrooms. They have TV sets at the end of the bed on a raised shelf, often with an adult sex channel on it. All their bathroom products come in wrappers and are thrown away each day. I have even known people in their own home put out "Do Not Disturb" notices on the door of their own bedroom.
Counsel: Stolen, presumably, from some hapless hotel.
Chrysler: Never call a hotel hapless. They know what they are doing. No hotel loses money willingly. They may have things taken from them, but the stuff that guests leave behind is just as valuable.
Counsel: Are you serious when you say that clients of yours drink from their own minibars in their own bedrooms in their own homes?
Chrysler: Certainly. And just as in a hotel, they grumble about the price and size of the bottles, and the absence of ice.
Counsel: So why don't they get a proper fridge in their bedroom?
Chrysler: Because then it wouldn't be like a hotel.
Judge: Tell me, Mr Chrysler, do these businessmen of yours also have Gideon Bibles by their bedside at home?
Chrysler: Many of them, sir.
Judge: And where do you get the Gideon Bibles from?
Chrysler: Alas, they, too, have to be taken from hotels.
Judge: Then why are you not also up on a charge of Bible-stealing?
Chrysler: Because the Bibles do not belong to the hotels. They belong to the Gideon Society. And the Gideon Society has decided not to prosecute me, but to forgive me and tell me to go and sin no more.
Judge: And have you sinned no more?
Chrysler: Alas, no.