Nobody is denying, least of all my client, that she colluded with the Spivvins family to illegally defend these from policemen legally charged with taking their children away from them. Was it evil? Was it hasty, to the point of mental insanity?
My client may indeed be described as hasty, if you like. But haste is sometimes required. When the lives and freedoms of innocent people are at stake, one cannot without gross dishonour stand by and wait till one has a chance to make everything the legal way.
In a recent war, the Germans learned at a great price that saving lives from a bloody dictator sometimes required illegal action. When it comes to saving British pilots, people who did that faced charges of high treason if caught. RAF honours them. When it comes to saving Jews from terrible suffering and humiliation, possibly death, some who did that and are honoured in Yad Vashem did so by laying aside for a moment the respect for the legal forms of their countries.
I know that the family my client was helping by shooting arrows into some policemen are at a safe place, I have talked to them, it seems very clear that they could at the hands of the Social Assistant in question expect no freedom such as families are used to.
Why? Because the mother was illiterate and the father a headstrong Catholic. Much as we dislike illiteracy, it cannot be an adequate ground for taking children away from a mother. Much as we dislike Jesuit fanaticism - though giving Father Brown of that order his due, they are not all like what we have heard - being a Catholic, however headstrong cannot be a ground for the taking away of children from both parents. Even under the Penal laws, childrehn could only be taken away from a Catholic parent at the behest of an Anglican or Puritan one.
And, one more reason for this lack of secured rights, because the social worker in question - responsible and quiet as she may seem when heard in court - had been among his worst school time harassers. Margaret Cholmondeley, called Cholmondeley Major because of her built, was not acting like a benevolent distributor of gifts in her school days, but she terrorised, with a few others, her comrades. They liked to bully almost everyone weaker than themselves in a school that was closed down some ten years ago, called Experiment House. After leaving that school, she managed to behave herself and gain some confidence. Peter Spivvins - who is also accused along with Susan Pevensie and with his wife and who has managed to keep away - was not among the weakest in the school, but his fiancée, now wife, had been illegally taken away from a residential school for Esquimaux in Canada, and he had no reason to suppose this secret would not be abused if given away to his harrassers or, especially, their parents.
Obviously, in a civilised country, this cannot happen. And as obviously we like to think of England as a civilised country. But sometimes barbarism and dictatorship can nevertheless creep in. An institution that is supposed to be benevolent can become poisoned with a spirit of dictatorship, can become a miniature copy of the recent Nazi and the present Communist dictatorships on the Continent. I wonder whether certain parts of Canada cannot be counted among the dictatorships too. At least when dealing with Esquimaux, with Indians and with French Canadians.
If Sarah Spivvins - also among the accused today, and also keeping away - had been denounced when her now husband was attending Experiment House at the request of an Uncle - she might not ever have had the children for whose welfare Miss Cholmondeley is so concerned. But, what with our relations to Canada, if the children had been taken away, they might have been brought where they also would in their turn risk sterilisation. My clients' coaccused wanted to avoid this at all costs. My client helped them.
My case can be summed up so that my client, was in this case, as earlier when saving a child from forced abortion (I have talked to that family too, the teen mother is now married to a gipsy), acted precisely as the heroes of the recent war did. She should not only be acquitted, but honoured as a hero.
I rest my case.
Applause broke out in the court room. The judge banged the club onto the bar to ask for quiet. He got the jury to retire for deliberation. Five minutes later the jury and the judge were back, and Susan Pevensie was acquitted, along with the absent Peter and Sarah Spivvins, who would have otherwise risked being condemned in contumaciam.