If I ever get old and respectable enough, I?d quite like to be Bailiff one day. I probably wouldn?t care too much for the endless formal dinners with self-important foreigners or having to think up new ways of telling Stuart Syvret to shut up twice a month, but I?d get a kick out of dispensing my own brand of in-your-face justice to the shiftless dopeheads and bumbling burglars of St Helier.
I?d round up the tramps from Patriotic Street and force them to ice-skate for the amusement of tourists. I?d make drink drivers work as rickshaw-pullers and give people free lifts home from the pub. Anyone who keyed a car or showed similar disrespect for other peoples? property would be forced to work their debt off by cleaning old ladies? houses at gunpoint. I might even let some people off just for the hell of it – there are some crimes that are so inherently humorous that I wouldn?t be able to bring myself to swing the mace of judicial righteousness at the perpetrator.
Take Ralph Hardy – until a few weeks ago he was your average thirteen-year-old American geek. Then he embarked on a crime spree so awesome that Ned Kelly and Al Capone spontaneously rose from the dead and started jamming with Keith Richards on ?Sympathy for the Devil?. It all started when Ralph?s father forgot to get him a present for his birthday. Now this has happened to a few friends of mine, but all they did was take up drinking or smoking and hang around Les Quennevais for a few years. Ralph did what in hindsight was the logical way to ensure you get attention from your parents – he sneakily ordered an additional credit card on his father?s account and went nuts when it arrived.
In just a few days, he ran up a bill of $30,000 buying pretty much whatever he felt like including an X-Box and a pile of games. He then rented a room at a motel in Texas and invited his friends along to play, ordering a stack of room service to keep them fuelled with junk food. After winning an online games tournament, he then had a brainwave and called in some $1,000-a-night hookers.
The best part of the whole thing is that when the hookers arrived, they saw a room full of kids playing games and gorging on sugar and refused to enter, but were somehow persuaded by Ralph that the kids weren?t kids at all but – get this – dwarves from a passing circus. Of course, the hookers weren?t so shallow as to discriminate against persons of restricted growth, and so they shrugged and went in.
Fortunately, it turned out that Ralph and friends didn?t actually want to do anything dirty with their new chums but thought it would be kind of fun to have them around, thus fulfilling the dream of every thirteen-year-old boy (and some thirty-year-old men) by playing X-Box with hot half-naked chicks. Eventually the clerk at the motel smelled a rat and called in the police, who were confronted with predictable scenes of debauchery including $3,000 in cash and a heap of assorted gadgets which had been bought and discarded.
Now it doesn?t really matter that an unsympathetic judge convicted Ralph of fraud and sentenced him to a three-year community service order – he is still officially the coolest teenager for a hundred miles in every direction and will be fighting off girls with a stick while borrowing his neighbour?s Ferrari by the time he turns seventeen. If I?d been hearing his case I would have ruffled his hair and sent him on his way, shaking my head and chuckling in an avuncular fashion.
Some decisions might be more difficult, forcing me to dither like a local policeman trying to tell the difference between a coconut and a child?s skull (hint: you can?t make a delicious pina colada or comedy bra with a fragment of skull) – for instance I would be deeply troubled by the case of Arwel Wynne Hughes from Anglesey in Wales. Mr Hughes was arrested after he took drunken exception to a nearby group of people filming a documentary about their new religion. In fact, he assaulted two people using a metal crutch, which would normally be grounds for a stiff sentence.
However, there are what I would call significant mitigating circumstances in this case – the religion in question was the Jedi church, and the grown men in question were play-fighting with lightsabers in front of a camera in their garden. Arwel, seeing things through the fog imposed by the larger part of a box of wine, took the entirely understandable option of putting a bin bag over his shoulders and attacking the bespectacled combatants with a crutch while shouting ?DARTH VADER! DARTH VADER!?.
The Force deserted the hapless nerds as they buckled before the terrifying onslaught. Mr. Hughes later claimed that he could not remember the incident and only realised what had happened when he read about it in local newspapers (he also confessed to having no idea where he got the crutch from).
Now if this had case came before me, I would, after some consideration, be forced to let Arwel go. Why? Because although I get as annoyed as the next guy by aggressive drunk idiots, the fact remains that if you are going to base your life around a thirty-year-old film featuring spaceships flown by a mutated red setter and Indiana Jones, you are going to get beaten up on a regular basis and the sooner you realise this, the happier you will be. The time when you can be geeky and get away with it is between the ages of eleven and fifteen – make like Ralph and enjoy it while you can.