It’s one of those time-honoured ceremonial occasions that the British do so well. Every autumn, the majestic setting of the Royal Courts of Justice witnesses the spectacle of Her Majesty’s legal press corps, in traditional garb of crumpled raincoats, processing to a tiny back room. There, they are joined after a suitable interval by the lord chief justice, magnificently turned out in dark suit and tie, accompanied by solemn factotum the head of news.
Yes, it’s the annual press conference of the individual known by sub-editors throughout the realm as ‘Top Judge’. The highlight of the event swiftly follows: the Rozenberg Question. Since time immemorial, distinguished Gazette columnist and bloke off the telly Joshua Rozenberg has placed the first question. But this year, in one of those subtle adjustments that show our unwritten constitution at its best, he was pipped to the prize by the Standard’s Martin Bentham, who caught the head of news’ eye with a question about niqabs in court, leaving Joshua to follow up on the same subject.
Obiter can assure readers that the manoeuvre looks simple at home, but takes weeks of practice.
The Gazette got in third, with a question on cameras in court.
In a flash it’s all over. The lord chief justice and attendants gracefully withdraw and the hacks working for daily rags gather in the traditional huddle to agree the best line and check they haven’t missed anything that their competitors will run with.
Obiter pooh-poohs suggestions that these rituals are outdated in the modern media age. We’re already looking forward to next year.