Novelist Ian McEwan once described legal judgments as an ‘extraordinary and neglected sub-genre of our literary heritage’. It’s hard to disagree when judgments begin in the fashion of that in Stephen G Hughes (VO) v York Museums and Gallery Trust, handed down by the United Kingdom Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber).
The judgment begins: ‘On 7 April 1739 Dick Turpin was taken from a cell in York Castle to the city gallows at Knavesmire where he was hanged for the theft of three horses. He is said to have put on a good show, dressing in a new frock coat, bowing to spectators and paying three pounds ten shillings for the services of five professional mourners.’
Sadly there is not much else about Turpin in the judgment, which devotes most of its 270 clauses to the method by which historic buildings used as museums and visitor attractions are most appropriately valued for the purpose of rating. (In this case £183,000 for the museum, shop and cafe.)
But the judgment is still worth reading, if only for the history of some of the wonderful landmarks of York.
As you would expect, Obiter is a fan of judgments containing excursions into unlikely fields of knowledge. Are there any we may have missed? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.