I RECALL thinking 'At last!' when finally the former customs department's botched sort-of investigation that they called Operation Extend reached court.

A number of attempts at getting a trial going began and ended quite quickly. Getting this far seemed as if soon there would be a final curtain to this unending nightmare of months and months in prison waiting. My daily diary noted them all, but the experience was too horrible to have me translate those shorthand strokes even now. Eventually, the actual trial began.

Ship's Log 08 ii 2017 | Woolwich
near 51° 29' N x 0° 5' E | Wind NE 6 knots Barometer 1020 | Occasional rain Temperature 2°

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
The well of the courtroom in South-East London was packed, absolutely packed with defendants and their lawyers, three for each of the, what, fourteen or so defendants, and all paid for by the taxpayer.

The jury members were called and chosen, or whatever the process is that accepts some and shuns others.

Class distinctions

Our awful class distinctions were very obvious almost immediately, even before any of them uttered a word, it seemed. And, naturally, the mixed origins of modern Britain were very apparent. Importantly, I wondered, did they all understand their role? Soon I had reason to doubt it. It's not that they weren't told what was expected of them, although of course they had no idea, and nor did we, that the trial was going to drag on and on to historic proportions - 18 months.

I began to feel quite quickly that some didn't have the nouse to understand their duties, or perhaps they came with their own agenda. One or two acted almost right away as if their role was to deliver a guilty verdict. I wondered if they didn't spend an age before a mirror at home honing up the famous Colosseum thumbs down signal.

Do I sound biased? Of course I do, and I was and I am.

I'll just choose one example tomorrow to show you that the people in the jury box did not understand their role - or didn't accept it. Fortunately for relative, comparative, peace of mind at the time I wouldn't recognise what was becoming obvious. They were there to assist the prosecution. I will show you what I mean with tomorrow's blog.

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