How to express yourself in court

Those of you who are at all squeamish about bodily functions or ladies jiggly bits look away now.

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Earlier this week I was at the Royal Courts of Justice. Glamorous sounding I suppose – but the bogs are just as vile as in any teeny local court. They smell positively Dickensian which I suppose adds an air of authenticity for the grockles (excuse pun). Anyway, I found myself holing up in the lunch break in a toilet cubicle in the lobby, attempting to express breastmilk. Whilst initially amused by the sound of my breastpump wafting past the poor souls waiting outside the loo for an appointment with the CAB and reverberating gently around the hallowed walls of the RCJ grand foyer, I swiftly moved on to mild embarrassment and eventually total mortification at the queue I was causing for the other ladies who needed to answer a different call of nature. When I eventually emerged, pump accoutrements in hand, a young female barrister said to me ‘You should really complain – there should be better facilities’.

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Well immediately I thought to myself ‘By Jove she’s right’. Frankly, I had been so sidetracked by attempting to engineer the timing required in order to deal with court hearings of unpredictable length whilst still breastfeeding / expressing milk (what if the Judge doesn’t take a lunch break, will I explode? and other similar concerns) that I had resigned myself to accepting the really rather unpleasant way I have been spending my lunch hours: cramped in a cubicle or, if I am really lucky, picnicking and pumping (gosh we female barristers do love to multi-task) on the ever-so-slightly grimy floor of the comparatively extensive disabled loo. But really, accepting the inadequate is most unlike me. And so I had been jogged into action – no more the martyr, I felt my inner activist rising inside me like – er…milk to the pump? (ew, revolting metaphor)

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And so I spent a laborious hour or so last night crafting a rather nice letter to Her Majesty’s Court Service, asking them politely if they might do just a little better for those of us attempting to follow the Department of Health’s recommendation that all our babies should be exclusively breastfed for six full months – a named contact at each court, who could be discreetly asked if there was anywhere a bit more private than the toilet stall perhaps? Fully recognisant that this was likely to meet with no or no satisfactory response I vaguely contemplated enlisting armies of support via the FLBA Equalities Officer or some such in order to promote the cause. Breastfeeding lawyers and litigants alike need Justice!

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But I see from reading today’s Times that I have really not picked a very good time to be badgering HMCS about breastpumps and such like. They appear to have rather more pressing things at hand. Like the fact there isn’t any money for court staff, let alone for court staff who would have time to point me in the way of a quiet room with a nice comfy chair and a little sink in the corner, on account of the mess that has been made of the policy of attempting to make the courts self-financing through fee collection (incidentally it seems to me the policy of cranking up fees in care cases to fund other areas of the court system might lead the cruder amongst us to remark that this appears to build into the system a perverse incentive to take more children away from their parents in order to fund ‘justice’. But that’s a) controversial and b) a topic for another post).

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Regrettably I will have to bide my time and wait for a more opportune moment to launch the Justice for Jugs campaign (gives me time to think of a more appropriate title I suppose….Lactating Lawyers..,?).

3 thoughts on “How to express yourself in court

  1. My pupil supervisor tells me that when she had a new baby her partner would sometimes be waiting outside court ready to run in between cases, plug her baby onto her, and then run out with it once he (the baby) was sated. He gave her the nickname Bush Barrister of the Kalahari, evoking pictures of native women walking five miles with water, all the time with junior attached to their breast. In a similar way, a colleague of mine was recently persuaded to do an urgent case where the clerks had no-one else, one week after having her baby.

    They, and you, are deeply impressive.

    Justice for Jugs is still the best though, I could only think of ‘Milky Silks’.

  2. yeah I tried enlisting my husband once – when I had to deal with a part heard matter at 2 1/2 months old. it almost led to an early divorce when the tube went down, we had to walk half a mile with giant suitcase full of papers and pushchair, catch a bus, catch a taxi and then got separated between taxi and court and I ended up having to express because there was no phone signal and I couldn’t get hold of the other half. And the baby ended up getting formula anyway…NOT one to repeat.

    I am SO impressed by those women who go back earlier than I did. But I wouldn’t have wanted to even if I could. Sarah Palin may think its a badge of honor not to pause for breath but there is real value in staying home to build a relationship with your little one even if you miss the job you love.

  3. Excellent… ‘Lactating Lawyers’… I’ll have to remember that one, even if I have no idea when I might use it! Good luck with the campaign – whenever you decide to start it.

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