Foul-mouthed ventriloquism is not a talent you would expect of one of the land’s most senior judges, but for a fleeting moment last week, one Lord Justice appeared to show masterful technique. Presenting his final report on civil litigation costs – a 557-page tome to accompany the 663 pages of his preliminary opus – at a press briefing, Sir Rupert Jackson, while simultaneously explaining the ins and outs of conditional fee agreements, was suddenly accompanied by a hushed voice over the Royal Courts of Justice intercom. Was Jackson performing some sort of specialist ventriloquism, allowing him to project his inner monologue into the real world?
The hushed voice, along with some intermittent muffling, soon became two voices which broke in to conversation. The sound on the intercom rose in volume until Jackson was forced to stop mid-sentence, and at that precise moment, the fifty assembled journalists heard from the intercom a strained: ‘Oh, shit!’
Behind Jackson, Lord Judge, the lord chief justice, and Lord Neuberger, master of the rolls, raised their eyes to the heavens in a restrained gesture of mortification. Perhaps they knew Jackson was up to something. Or more likely, perhaps the microphones being handled by the BBC camera crew at the back of the room had transmitted something they shouldn’t have.