bright idea

During his long practise at the Victorian criminal bar, David Ross QC (who died in 2009) kept a set of notes and a list of cases which he organised alphabetically by topic. He meticulously updated these notes as the law changed and new cases were decided. It was these notes which were eventually published by Thomson Reuters as “Ross on Crime” (now in its 6th edition).

As you would expect most of the topics are relevant to criminal law: “assault”, “bail”, “conspiracy” etc. However, it appears that Ross QC had a few eccentricities (apart from playing didgeridoo and trombone). There is a chapter devoted to “Jazz”, which starts with a quote from the judgment of Moses LJ in R v Francis [2007] 1 WLR 1021: “When a bright idea strikes counsel as moment of epiphany it is useful for the advocate to recall the advice of that illustrious member of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Miles Davis advised: ‘Think of a note. Don’t play it.’

This is followed by an annotation which says that although his Lordship’s point was well made it was technically wrong as Miles Davis was never a member of the Modern Jazz Quartet.

There are other headings which deal with topics such as “It’s music, but is it jazz?”, “Defamation”, “Musicians shot dead”, “Managers”, “Drummers”, “Guitarists”, “They gave up law for music” etc etc.¬†There is also (under the heading “Singers”) the tale of the presbyterian choir master, who persuaded a girl pupil to have sexual intercourse with him on the basis that it was an accepted procedure for improvement of breathing (see R v Williams [1923] 1 KB 340). The choir master was convicted because the girl’s consent was vitiated by fraud as to the nature and quality (??) of the act.

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph.

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