Following on from my post ‘In The Courts’, another judge who may be of interest is the legendary Judge James Pickles, who died in 2010. Pickles became notorious in 1989 when he imprisoned a teenaged single mother for contempt of court when she refused to give evidence against her former boyfriend after he’d assaulted her – because she was terrified of him. She was freed by the Court of Appeal. However before the appeal was heard, Pickles spoke to the press about the case. There was speculation that he would be sacked, but instead he received a ‘serious rebuke’ from the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay. Pickles may have come down like a ton of bricks on a terrified teenager, but he could be very understanding. Earlier in 1989 he had sentenced a man to probation rather than prison for sexually assaulting a 6 year old girl.
I remember this case well but I only thought about it more deeply yesterday when someone reminded me of it – and the year in which it happened, 1989. There was much talk at the time that Pickles’ sentencing in this case would deter vulnerable victims of crime from coming forward. So in 1989 was there anything going on in which it might be particularly important for vulnerable witnesses who might be at risk of intimidation to feel able to make complaint? Yes – in north Wales. Mary Wynch had been successful in suing Dr Dafydd Alun Jones and Clwyd Health Authority, Alison Taylor just would not stop whistleblowing about the abuse of children in care in north Wales and I was making a nuisance of myself by complaining about Dafydd and the paedophiles’ friends. Andrew Park, the corrupt lawyer employed by the Welsh Office, was at the time dispensing advice to Clwyd and Gwynedd Health Authorities on how to ignore my complaints and secure a High Court injunction against me that would stop me pursuing my complaints. And dear old Professor Robert Owen (the Medical Ombudsman for the Welsh Office), Professor Robert Bluglass and Dr Colin Berry had been engaged to conceal the criminal activities of the north Wales mental health services in the wake of my complaints about Dafydd, Dr Tony Francis (Dr X) and Gwynedd Social Services.
Researching Pickles’ earlier I discovered quite a few surprising things about him and was reminded of a few things which I did know about previously but in the light of the research that I have conducted for this blog take on a new relevance.
Pickles came from Jimmy Savile country, West Yorkshire! Specifically Halifax. His father Arthur was a Liberal member of Halifax Town Council. His initial degree was in law, at the University of Leeds.
He worked as a barrister in Bradford, 1949-76. From 1963 he was an Assistant Recorder in the Crown Courts; he was a Recorder in Bradford 1972-76. In 1976 Pickles was appointed a Circuit judge on the North Eastern Circuit – he also worked as a Circuit judge in London.
So Pickles came from the heart of Savile/organised child sexual abuse/ police corruption country. He had worked in the area where Peter Sutcliffe caused havoc for years and where elementary errors – which some have alleged were a result of police corruption and very bad police attitudes towards women who were not considered ‘respectable’ – led to him not being caught until he had murdered numerous women. There are suspicions that Sutcliffe assaulted and killed other women but was never questioned about these crimes. Pickles worked in the north east of England at the time of the Cleveland Child Abuse Scandal – which proved a most useful distraction for anyone who was trying to draw attention to the involvement of the state itself in organised child abuse (see post ‘The Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Connection’).
I have mentioned many times on this blog how effective the jungle drums are in legal circles. Pickles will have undoubtedly heard rumours about Savile, about the extensive abuse of children in care, about the extent of police corruption in West Yorkshire and about Mary Wynch making legal history. He also worked in London, so it is very likely that he heard about allegations of corruption in the children’s services and mental health services in north Wales via his London links. By 1989 the London based medical establishment were well aware of my allegations about Dafydd et al. Political figures in Westminster knew that Sir Peter Morrison, Thatcher’s aide and MP for Chester was molesting under aged boys and even attending parties at which this was happening.
Pickles had an interest in politics as well. He was a Labour member of Brighouse Borough Council 1956-62. He also stood as a Parliamentary candidate twice, once in the General Election of 1959 for Labour at Barkington Ash and once for the Liberals at Brighouse and Spenborough in the General Election of 1964.
Pickles was a keen member of the Halifax Thespians and the Halifax Authors Circle.
So Pickles certainly got about. He will have known people in politics, in law, in the police, in the local councils, in acting and in literary circles in West Yorkshire, the north east of England and in London.
Pickles was certainly not popular with the legal establishment. He liked to present himself as the People’s Judge, the voice of Yorkshire against the London establishment. He constantly breached judicial etiquette by writing articles in the broadsheets, by appearing on TV (on one occasion on Wogan) and at one point held a press conference in a pub. He didn’t discuss the weather or football results on such occasions – he discussed cases that he was involved in, sometimes cases that had not yet been concluded.
He verbally abused both Lord Lane, the Lord Chief Justice, and Lord Hailsham, the Lord Chancellor – in public. He resorted to sexual innuendo in Court in a way which was considered vulgar and unacceptable even for his time and he wanted to legalise cannabis and prostitution. The former Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning, made it clear that he thought that Pickles should be dismissed. But Pickles never was. Powerful senior colleagues loathed him, some of his judgements were extraordinary and, some felt, positively dangerous – teenaged girls and mothers of very young babies were jailed for trivial offences whilst serious offenders were allowed to live in the community.
Could perhaps James Pickles, like a few others whom a lot of people dearly wanted to see the back of but who were never given the boot, have known something about parts of High Society that no-one dared risk being made public?
Pickles retired from the bench in 1991 much to the relief of many. But the world had not seen the back of James Pickles. He embarked on a new career as a tabloid journalist, writing for the Sun and the Daily Sport. He was most enthusiastic about photos of topless teenagers in the tabloids and ended up in a TV spat with Clare Short over this subject. Pickles admitted to enjoying soft pornography and described himself as a ‘tits and bum’ man. He considered himself liberal but nonetheless had a worrying tendency to project the sexual desires of men onto women, even in cases in which the women concerned were definitely not interested. Whilst debating leniency of sentencing in the context of sexual assault cases, Pickles spoke of women’s ‘clever manipulation’ and in terms of their dress their habit of ‘asking for it’ and the way in which their dress was ‘calculated to invite attention’.
Pickles also wrote what has been described as a ‘legal bonkbuster’, which featured a woman referred to as ‘No Knickers’. The bonkbuster was notorious for its bizarre descriptions of sex and the numerous different ways in which Pickles found to describe breasts. He appeared on breakfast TV with a view to promoting this volume, but after a few ill-advised comments and a joke about Alzheimers he tried to kiss the female presenter and GMTV pulled the plug.
On one occasion Pickles referred to Sarah Ferguson as a ‘scrubber’.
Pickles wrote many plays, a number of which were broadcast on BBC radio.
In 1993 he was a guest on Have I Got News For You. Pickles also appeared on Da Ali G Show and on Channel 5 in The People vs Jerry Sadowitz.
Pickles also earned a lot of money as an after dinner speaker.
In 1993 Pickles admitted that he’d been very tough on a number of people whom he’d sentenced but justified it by saying that ‘wicked people should be clobbered’. Unless they are sexually assaulting six year olds that is.
James Pickles’ notion of sexual liberation sounds horribly like Jimmy Savile’s – a projection of his own sexual desires onto other people who are in no way consenting. But once he’s taken into account the fact that they are asking for it, their calculated attention seeking, their wickedness and his own obsession with tits – of all shapes and sizes and probably ages as well – and bums and God knows what else, who could blame him for ripping off his trousers and leaping on top of an unsuspecting person? Particularly after he’s had a few spliffs. After all, we all know that No means Yes. Even to a batty old judge.
Pickles’ close relatives also had media connections. His sister Christine is an actress who starred in Friends and his daughter Carolyn is a regular on BBC TV and radio, who also starred in Emmerdale and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.