Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Judge with a Bad Driving Record

His Honour Brian Galpin
His Honour Brian Galpin, who has died aged 85, was an erudite and eccentric pillar of the Western Circuit.

Tall and imposing, with an unruly shock of hair and bushy eyebrows, he was a sharp lawyer who conformed to the popular image of a judge. In reality he was broad-minded and humane, a firm opponent of capital punishment. In private he was amiable and unassuming, often whimsical and surprisingly unconventional.

Galpin would brook no interruption to the smooth running of his court. Drivers who trespassed on his parking space outside could expect to be hauled before him for a reprimand. After one such incident, while he was sitting at Newport, an outraged correspondent to the Isle of Wight County Press suggested that to stamp one's foot and turn blue with rage when mildly inconvenienced - a ludicrous caricature of the unflappable judge - would normally be regarded as contemptible, unless, apparently, one was "Judge Brian Galpin, whose medieval-style working clothes seem to match his feudal way of life".

When Galpin came unstuck, it was usually to do with motor cars. He was gifted in many fields, but not as a driver. On his way to court at Bodmin, he crashed his Jaguar Mark 10 on a narrow bend, earning a six-month disqualification from the local magistrates for careless driving, with a further six months under the totting-up regulations.

Galpin, by then an aspiring judge, strove for a low-key appeal, hoping that his poor driving record would go unnoticed by both press and Lord Chancellor. However, he was skilfully represented by a colleague who emphasised the poor signage at the scene. This indicated that the road ahead was narrow and twisted, but not that it bent alarmingly at a right angle, suddenly narrowing by a full six feet. The judge agreed that "Road ahead becomes diabolical" would be a more appropriate warning, a phrase eagerly seized upon by the local press. Despite his vindication, Galpin's hopes for minimal publicity were thwarted, the story being treated to a centre-page spread in the Daily Express.

From The Daily Telegraph obituary. More at 8/9/2006

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