"How do you plead?"
I looked up at the carp sitting serenely at the judges bench, the gavel held loosely in his left pectoral.
"How do you plead? Innocent of guilty?"
I didn't like the way he lingered on the word guilty, as though he were trying to sway my decision and save himself and the court a lot of time.
"What am I accused of?" I asked confusedly.
The tench below him resignedly picked up the sheet of paper and droned through the charges.
"You are charged that on the 16th June 2001 and on many other occasions prior to that you did fish with bait for the intent of inflicting grievous bodily harm and kidnap on members of the fishy public. How do you plead?"
I was guilty as hell of coarse but there was no way I was going to admit that. That's what you pay a defence council for after all. I looked sideways at my defence council sitting to my right and blinked in surprise. A large catfish sat in the chair, pensively stroking one of his long upper whiskers in an attempt to look dignified.
Out of curiosity I looked across at the prosecution to meet the cold calculating stare of a pike. A little shudder of fright ran down my spine. I saw the same shudder pass through the assorted courtroom audience of roach, rudd and other fish as the prosecution pike rose to his fins and surveyed the courtroom briefly before calling his first witness.
An ancient battle-scarred chub made his way to the witness stand and was sworn in. There was something familiar about him and I racked my brain, mentally clicking through the chub files lodged away. It was no good; I couldn't remember him. Not that it mattered as the prosecution soon refreshed my memory.
"Will you, tell us, in your own words, where you first met the accused and the circumstances of that meeting."
"Objection." The catfish interrupted. " The prosecution is making the assumption that my client is guilty without proof."
"Sustained." Intoned Judge Carp. "Please rephrase the question, prosecution."
The chub quickly started his testimony.
"Well it was like this. I was down on the Wye on holiday, the wife and I, we like going down to the Wye because there's a nice refreshing currant there. We just don't get a currant like that on the Medway. It's.."
"Yes. Yes. Please get to the point of the matter." Interrupted the judge.
"Well as I was saying there I was enjoying the nice clean flow of the currant when I saw this piece of luncheon meat wavering enticingly. Well of coarse I had to have a look at it and seeing there was no other fish around that had obvious ownership of it, I decided that if no one else was going to have it I was. Well I'd no sooner taken it into my mouth and begun to swim away when there was this pull on my mouth and I was dragged out of the river by the accused - that man there - who then ripped the hook out of my mouth and threw me back into the river in a most undignified way." The chub concluded his testimony and began to rise.
"Not so fast, my friend." The defence counsel sinuated up from the desk moved in for cross examination.
"If I may ask a few simple questions we'll clear this matter up fairly quickly and you'll be able to leave the stand." The catfish said quietly.
"You said in your statement that you took the lump of meat, Before you took it did you realise that there was a line attached to the meat?"
"Yes. I did see some line leading to it." Admitted the chub.
"And did you happen to notice any sign of a hook in the meat?"
"Well. I did think I saw something in it, sort of poking out of the side."
"And yet you still maintain you had no idea that anyone owned the piece of meat. I put it to you sir that you did know the meat was owned. After all, it's fairly common knowledge that many humans like to wash their food in the water and in order to do so attach it to a line and hook so as to be able to retrieve it. Furthermore, I put it to you sir that you tried to steal the meat and due to your own ineptitude were caught on the hook."
The chub huffed and puffed and blustered, admitting that it could be looked at in that light but it honestly wasn't that way at all.
The catfish continued smoothly.
"Now as for the alleged assault. Is it true that my client actually pulled you from the river and removed the offending hook from your jaw and then solicitously carried you back to the river and returned you?"
"He did take the hook out of my mouth that's true."
The catfish interrupted.
"So my client, in actual fact, performed a humanitarian act in removing the offending hook from your mouth after you had performed him the disservice of trying to steal his food. I would call that a very charitable act of forgiveness,. Wouldn't you?"
The chub demurely agreed, his ego deflated by the relentless pursuit of the catfish.
The catfish turned to the judge.
"M'lud. I'm sure the prosecution has other witnesses and I'm also sure that they will all bear testimony to the same effect. That being that my client removed the offending hooks from them after they perpetrated an act of theft on his food. Far from being condemned my client should in fact be lauded as an exemplary person of great humanitarian principles and I ask that the court dismiss this case for lack of substantial evidence."
The carp judge looked at me gravely over the top of his half moon glasses for an instant and then banged down his gravel.
I turned in triumph and shook the defence counsels pectoral vigorously.
"I must stop eating cheese before I go to bed!"
Artical by "Carpy Chris"
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