Posted on 21st November 2018 by Chris Makin

The Bon Mots Of Sir Alan

Sir Alan Ward has for the last few years been the Chairman of the Civil Mediation Council.  I have mediated with him, and he was excellent.  But as a Court of Appeal judge Lord Justice Ward also made his mark.  I detect two recurring themes in his judgments: encouraging parties not to be so daft as to ignore mediation, and humour.   Let’s have a bit of fun and concentrate for a few precious moments on the latter.  These are genuine quotations from Sir Alan:

Warring bankers

“This case involves a number of – and here I must not fall into Dr Spooner’s error – warring bankers.”

Deference to Darth Vader

When a Fathers 4 Justice campaigner came to argue his case dressed in a Darth Vader outfit complete with Jedi weaponry, Lord Justice Ward asked: “Would Lord Vader kindly take off his helmet and put down his light sabre before addressing the court?” Ward LJ then proceeded to politely refer to the man as “Lord Vader” throughout the hearing.

Where is the oxygen of common sense?

“I prefer the instincts of the youthful Mr Justice Stanley Burnton before he became corrupted by the arid atmosphere of this court. It goes to prove what every good old-fashioned county court judge knows: the higher you go, the less the essential oxygen of common sense is available to you.”

I can’t get…

“The appellant is a lap dancer. I would not, of course, begin to know exactly what that involves. One can guess at it, but could not faithfully describe it. The Judge tantalisingly tells us, at paragraph 21 of his judgment, that the purpose is ‘to tease but not to satisfy’.

“By about the end of 2002, or early in 2003, the appellant seems to have begun to tease the respondent. He, being a rich businessman, sought, no doubt, to enliven his lonely evenings in London by seeking entertainment at the Spearmint Rhino club in Tottenham Court Road where the appellant was then employed. Having been tempted, he managed to obtain her telephone number and invited her to dinner. It was not exactly the traditional boy meets girl, “Let’s have dinner, darling” kind of invitation. It was an invitation which she accepted, but entirely on the basis that she would be there as his escort and, as his escort, she would provide the services of companionship and amusement, but for a consideration. That consideration would amount, according to the judgment, to perhaps about £700 or £800 a night for the pleasure of her company at dinner. But the arrangement was made on a number of occasions and, as they went on, the relationship changed and at some time early in 2003 it is common ground that the services included sexual services, for which even more money was paid as a consideration. Whether or not rule 2 of the Spearmint Rhino club had been breached, requiring that you could get no satisfaction, we do not know and fortunately do not have to decide.”

The potty border dispute

“This is another of that hideous form of litigation called the boundary dispute, a form of litigation which is best not pursued. Just how much is this stupid piece of land worth? What you are arguing over is a few rhododendron bushes. If you live in St Georges Hill, you’ve got money to throw away, presumably. But why throw it away like this? You’re all potty. Disputes of this kind are a most hateful form of litigation; go away and sort it out.”

Amor omnia vincit

“It all seemed so apposite, for this case is – or at least it professes to be – all about love. Love is, of course, an old, old story. ‘Amor omnia vincit et nos cedemas amori’ – love conquers all, let us surrender ourselves to love – wrote Virgil; ‘Love is all you need,’ sang the Beatles.  “

Use a mediator to avoid hell

“Not all neighbours are from hell. They may simply occupy the land of bigotry.  There may be no escape from hell but the boundaries of bigotry can with tact be changed by the cutting edge of reasonableness skilfully applied by a trained mediator. Give and take is often better than all or nothing.”

Decree nicey

After Ward urged a wife to show her “broken” ex-husband “a little milk of human kindness”, he was memorably labelled “Decree Nicey” by The Mirror.

“The letter written by the wife’s solicitors asking him to remove his belongings is lacking in sensitivity, lacking feeling, lacking in any humanity. This is a totally broken man, an honourable man, and to rub his nose in it like this is not dignified. He ought to be given a reasonable chance to clear a lifetime of belongings. I hope a little milk of human kindness may still run in the veins of those who have won everything for someone who has lost everything.”

Is it a horse?  Is it a mule?

“You may be able to drag the horse (a mule offers a better metaphor) to water, but you cannot force the wretched animal to drink if it stubbornly resists. I suppose you can make it run around the litigation course so vigorously that in a muck sweat it will find the mediation trough more friendly and desirable. But none of that provides the real answer.”

Safe harbour of the RCJ

“I am afraid, therefore, that Randy Northrop must lose and the appeal must be dismissed. I have a sneaking sympathy for him because he did not use many of the services which council tax is supposed to provide and it may have been harsh to list him in band A. But all of that is of no moment. He had indicated that he was soon to move and he has moved from the mooring.

“He has thrown off the bow lines and sailed away from the safe harbour though whether to catch the trade winds in his sails or just withstand the buffetings of the gales in the English Channel I know not. In as much as this is the penultimate judgment I shall write after 18 years in the Court of Appeal, I am a kindred spirit who has sailed away from the safe harbour of the Royal Courts of Justice, not at all sure how to explore, or what to dream or what I am about to discover.”

Alan, we miss you!

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