|SIYE Time:11:14 on 20th March 2018|
Is Draco Malfoy a Git?
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Category: The Sting Challenge (2011-2)
Story is Complete
Summary: *** Winner of Best Legalese and the People’s Choice Award in The Sting Challenge ***
Libel laws? Be careful what you wish for...
Hitcount: Story Total: 5046
Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.
First: I suspect that I’ve turned this challenge on its head, or possibly even broken it. At the very least I’ve probably made it into something it wasn’t supposed to be. Sorry.
Second (warning – serious bit): the organisation Sense about Science launched a campaign to “Keep Libel Laws out of Science” because British Libel Laws ARE a mess. Various quacks (vitamin pill salesmen, chiropractors, etc.) have tried to sue journalists who say that their “miracle cure” doesn’t work. The UK libel laws force the legitimate critic to prove (at great expense) that a quack’s snake oil does NOT do what it’s claimed, when, rightly, the quack should be required to prove that it does. I feel strongly about this, sorry.
Is Draco Malfoy a Git?
AT THE WIZARDS COURT
Courts of Justice,
The Ministry of Magic,
THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE WOOLLEY
MR ETHELRED SCROTE Q.C. AND MR A BIGG-LYRE appeared on behalf the plaintiff Mr Malfoy
MISS FELICITY GOLIGHTLY Q.C. AND MR I SHRIVE appeared on behalf of the defendant Mr Weasley
Transcript prepared from the official record by:
The Northumbrian Court Reporting Service
MR JUSTICE WOOLLEY: Good morning, witches and wizards. First, may I thank you all for your very careful attention to both the evidence and to Counsels’ arguments. I watched your attempts at concentration during those first few turgid days with admiration. It is fortunate for all of us that the later stages of this case were rather more lively.
Now, I am sure you are anxious to get down to the task of considering your verdict. Unfortunately, before you do, you must listen to yet another legal voice, mine, as it is my duty to summarise the arguments we have heard over the past two weeks.
It has been my task to look after the procedure, now I must give you directions on the law as it applies to the case that you have to consider. You must accept my directions and follow them. I am also required to remind you of the prominent features of the evidence as they occur to me. As my memory isn’t what it was, I have prepared copious notes. I only hope that I can read them.
It is your duty and your responsibility to set aside any preconceptions you may have. You must judge the case only on the evidence you have heard. Decide all the relevant facts, and consider them carefully. Only then can you reach a verdict.
The law of libel is almost incomprehensible, except to those who have studied it from their cradles, and even for them it is a dangerous labyrinth filled with traps and monsters. Both counsel for the plaintiff, and counsel for the defence have attempted to enlighten you with regard to this law. It is even possible that some part of what they said was correct. I must say, however, that they managed to confuse me. For this reason, I must warn you that if you think that you understand this law, I suspect that you are wrong.
Fortunately, as lay Jurors you are not expected to understand, merely to reach a decision.
You have heard the arguments put forward by both sides, you have heard the appellant, the defendant, and their friends and family make their statements, and you have heard a most interesting and elucidating lecture from the noted etymologist Mr Watts Wordsworth and another from Miss Ginevra Weasley.
In addition, thanks to the confusion evidenced by the defendant, Mr Ronald Weasley when Mr Wordsworth was introduced by Mr Scrote as an expert witness, you, like Mr Weasley, may have discovered the difference between “a bloke that knows about insects”, and “a bloke that knows about words”. Just in case you remain confused, I shall remind you that Mr Wordsworth is the latter, an etymologist, and not an entomologist. It seems unlikely that an entomologist could have shone any light into the dark corners of this case. However given its complexities, I may be mistaken.
(At this point the defendant shouted, “Perhaps I should have called Malfoy a louse”, and was warned by the judge about his behaviour.)
Now, I must remind you of the facts behind this case. As you are aware, several remarkable changes have been made to the legal system in recent months. These changes, the introduction of Muggle libel laws, have been used by the defendant and his friends, with limited success, in order to ensure that facts are accurately reported by the press. It is possibly ironic, and certainly, I hope educational, that Mr Weasley now finds himself the defendant, not the plaintiff. I believe that the common expression is “hoist by his own petard”, although I will require the services of Mr Wordsworth to explain the meaning of that phrase, as I have no idea what a petard is.
You will recall that it is from an accurately reported article that this case springs. In an interview with Miss Taik, who, we learned, is a “Gossip Columnist” with Witch Weekly, the following exchange took place.
Miss Taik: “What can you tell us about the disgraced family Malfoy, in particular, your former classmate, Draco Malfoy?”
Mr Weasley: “Draco Malfoy is a Death Eater–and a git. There’s nothing else to say.”
It is worth pointing out that Mr Weasley does not deny using those words, and that Mr Malfoy admits that he was, indeed a member of You-know-Lord-Riddle-thingy’s inner circle, a so called “Death Eater”. Mr Malfoy, however, has taken exception to being called a git, as I suspect, would most reasonable men.
On the first three days of this trial we heard the effusively loquacious Barrister for Mr Malfoy, Mr Ethelred Scrote, drone on interminably, as he made a far from brief, but certainly compelling, case for damages against Mr Weasley. The gist of Mr Scrote’s argument is simple.
Mr Weasley, in a printed article available to the public, called Mr Malfoy a git. Defamation in print is certainly libellous. Being called a git is defamation. Ergo, Mr Weasley has committed libel.
I note that I appear to have summarised the three days of Mr Scrote’s opening remarks in four short sentences, but I do not believe that I have missed anything of importance to the case. In summary, Mr Scrote’s simple argument is that Mr Malfoy has been libelled and must be awarded damages.
On the fourth day we heard the elegant Barrister for Mr Weasley, Miss Felicity Golightly, make the interesting counter-argument that Mr Malfoy is, indeed, a git. Following Miss Golightly’s logic, Mr Weasley’s statement was factually accurate, and not, therefore, libellous. Miss Golightly, with interestingly agitated embonpoint, added that, in her personal opinion, git, was in fact too mild a word for a follower of, er, He-whose-name-you-all-should-know-by-now .
On the fifth and sixth days we heard from Mr Draco Malfoy, who, under examination by Mr Scrote, described in poignant detail the hurt he felt when reading the article. Mr Malfoy stated that the use of the word “git” by Mr Weasley had been, and I quote “a hurtful personal insult from an arrogant young man”, a man who had bullied and taunted Mr Malfoy throughout his school days. Mr Malfoy told of several occasions at school when Mr Weasley had hexed him, and of one dreadful occasion when Mr Weasley connived with Mr Potter to have a Hippogriff attack him. Mr Malfoy also told us of a cowardly physical attack carried out by Mr Weasley. The unfortunate Mr Malfoy was, we were told, wandless and defenceless when Mr Weasley, hiding under an invisibility cloak thumped a vulnerable and helpless young man on the nose.
Mr Weasley, as you will recall, took exception to this part of Mr Malfoy’s evidence and voiced the opinion that it was only a pity that the damage wasn’t permanent. In fact, were it not for the calming influence of his “friend” Miss Granger, Mr Weasley would probably have been charged with contempt of this court.
(At this point the defendant Weasley interjected with the words “make it contempt of Malfoy, and I’ll plead guilty” and was again warned by the judge about his behaviour.)
Mr Malfoy also explained that, during the Battle of Hogwarts, he had intervened to save Mr Potter’s life. It seems that, in a place known as “the Room of Hidden Things” Mr Malfoy prevented the late Vincent Crabbe, and the wanted Death Eater Gregory Goyle from killing Mr Potter. This brave and noble act has gone unrecognised and unrewarded.
Under cross-examination, by Miss Golightly, who certainly made a lie of her name at this point in the proceedings, Mr Malfoy admitted that he, and his father, had both been, er, Death Eaters. Mr Malfoy vigorously defended himself and, while Miss Golightly may believe that being a Death Eater is a lot less socially acceptable than being a git, Mr Malfoy forcefully, some may say arrogantly, reminded us that he had admitted to the former, and accepted his punishment, but that he had never admitted to the latter.
On the seventh day we heard from the fragrant and tragic Mrs Narcissa Malfoy. This lovely and blameless woman described, in excruciating detail, the anguish her only child had suffered after reading the article. One would need a heart of stone not to feel anything other than sympathy for the poor, dear lady.
On the eighth day, in a brave move, Mr Scrote called Mr Harry Potter to the stand as a character witness for Mr Malfoy. Mr Potter explained in forthright detail how the noble bravery of Mrs Malfoy saved him at a most perilous time during the Battle of Hogwarts. He admitted that it was unlikely that he would be alive today were it not for that wonderful woman. Mr Potter also admitted that, although Mr Malfoy was a Death Eater, he had, so far as Mr Potter was aware, never killed anyone.
Mr Potter went so far as to say that Mr Malfoy’s wand, which he had borrowed from the plaintiff during a short visit to Malfoy Manor, had never been used to kill and was, in fact, the wand responsible for defeating the Dark-you-know-Lord-thingy. However, despite being invited to do so several times by Mr Scrote, at no point did Mr Potter give Mr Malfoy any credit for his actions during the battle.
Under cross-examination by Miss Golightly, Mr Potter listed numerous instances of alleged bullying by Mr Malfoy and described several occasions over the years when Mr Malfoy had bullied and belittled Mr Potter and his friends. He claimed that there had been many occasions when Mr Malfoy had indulged in assaulting and insulting Mr Potter’s gang. It seems to me that there was a certain amount of childish animosity between these two young men, and that even as an adult, and unlike Mr Malfoy, Mr Potter is unable to forgive these childish pranks.
Mr Potter then gave his version of events in this “Room of Hidden Things”. Mr Potter claimed that, although Mr Malfoy prevented Crabbe and Goyle from killing him, this was simply because Lord-thingy-Riddle wanted to kill Mr Potter personally. Mr Potter also alleged that Mr Malfoy did not prevent Crabbe and Goyle from casting a killing curse on Miss Granger, which fortunately missed. Nor did the plaintiff make any attempt to prevent them from attempting to kill Mr Weasley.
Under re-examination by Mr Scrote Mr Potter stuck to this story. When asked by Mr Scrote why he refused to give Mr Malfoy any credit for his assistance during the battle, to credit his client for his bravery and usefulness, Mr Potter again stated that Mr Malfoy had, in fact, been trying to curry favour with er, thingy, by capturing Mr Potter alive. He stated that Mr Malfoy had been “less useful than a used teabag”, and that the only reliable thing about the Plaintiff was that when things got difficult, he’d panic, run away, and try to save himself. There was vociferous agreement from the public gallery at Mr Potter’s statement, but you, the jury must restrict yourself to the evidence and put the public’s opinion out of your minds.
After a heated re-examination, Mr Scrote managed to get a confession from Mr Potter. He asked Mr Potter whether the incidents of bullying, belittling and hexing had all taken place when Mr Malfoy was in the company of Messrs Crabbe and Goyle, or other, older boys such as his Quidditch team. Mr Potter agreed that this was the case. You may consider this to be important.
Mr Scrote then suggested that it was possible that the shy and sensitive young Mr Malfoy had simply fallen in with the wrong crowd and had been forced into those acts by Crabbe and Goyle. Mr Potter disagreed strongly and told the counsel for the plaintiff that Malfoy had always been the ringleader and that Crabbe and Goyle were little more than mindless thugs. Mt Potter also said that this case was proving that Mr Weasley was correct. Mr Malfoy was, in fact, a lying, untrustworthy, git.
On the ninth day, we heard from the noted etymologist, Mr Wordsworth, who explained that the word “git” springs from the word “get” which, apparently, is the version still used in Northern England and Scotland. In this insulting sense git, or get, is being used in its archaic meaning, of offspring; as in beget.
Mr Wordsworth went on to explain that “your get” are your, probably illegitimate, offspring. After further careful questioning by Mr Scrote, Mr Wordsworth equated the word “git” with a rather stronger word implying illegitimacy. Mr Scrote then invited Mr Wordsworth to comment on whether being called “the other word” would be hurtful. Mr Wordsworth believed that it would. Mr Scrote then reminded us that, as Mr Malfoy’s legitimacy was beyond any question or doubt, then making a statement to the contrary was certainly libellous.
The following day, for some reason, the defence decided not to place Mr Weasley on the stand, simply relying on his written statement, which you have. Instead, Miss Golightly opened with evidence from Miss Granger. This forceful young lady, who we understand is in a relationship with Mr Weasley, simply agreed with the evidence given by her friends Messrs Weasley and Potter. Miss Granger told us that, on many occasions, Mr Malfoy called her names, almost invariably using the term “Mudblood” in a derogatory manner.
Under cross-examination, Mr Scrote suggested that perhaps Mr Malfoy, like many shy young men, had simply been trying to bring himself to her attention and his behaviour might simply have been because he was actually attracted to her. Miss Granger, after pretending to vomit, stated that far from being shy and sensitive, Mr Malfoy was in fact the perfect example of a narcissistic bully.
Miss Granger went on to say that she was not stupid, and she was certainly capable of telling the difference between a bigot who hated her because of her parentage and an idiot who fancied her but was too stupid to know what to do about it. For some reason both Mr Potter and Miss Ginevra Weasley thought this statement was extremely funny.
Finally, Mr Scrote reminded Miss Granger, and everyone else, that there had been six people in the Room of Hidden Things. One was dead, one was on the run, and everyone knew that Potter, Weasley and herself were inseparable, or “as thick as thieves”, while at school. Mr Scrote put it to Miss Granger that poor Mr Malfoy was faced with the word of three people; three people who, it is known, have lied and covered for each other for years.
Miss Granger reminded the court that she had agreed to take Veritaserum during the trial of Mr Malfoy’s father and she would do so again. Mr Scrote reminded everyone that Miss Granger, despite her low birth, was regarded as an extremely capable witch and had probably brewed a counter potion just in case of such an eventuality.
We then discovered that a mere Barrister with forty years experience is as nothing to Miss Granger, a young lady whom, it seems, has an opinion on everything and who is not afraid to express it. You will remember that she very forcefully assured Mr Scrote that, once she had resolved the issues surrounding the rights of house elves she would be taking a very close look at wizarding law, especially bigoted behaviour by barristers.
I wish her the very best of luck in that endeavour.
When Mr Scrote attempted to explain the complexities of the law, Miss Granger … well I’m sure that neither yourselves nor the “fat, condescending old buffoon” acting for “that smug git Malfoy” require reminding of that outburst.
When the trial resumed an hour later Miss Granger apologised to Mr Scrote for calling him names.
Finally, yesterday, we heard from the defendant’s sister, Miss Weasley. This radiant and pulchritudinous young woman, who has only recently left school, proved almost, it seemed to me, as knowledgeable as Mr Wordsworth. You will recall that when her brother expressed astonishment at her knowledge of words and their meaning she told him, “I read a lot! How else could I have come up with a name like Pigwidgeon for your owl?” Pigwidgeon, we learned, means small and insignificant; an apt name for a Scops owl.
It appeared to me that this remarkable young woman had done a lot of research in the days after Mr Wordsworth gave his evidence. She listed a number of words regarded as fairly inoffensive: pillock, sod and berk, and asked you, the jury, to try to decide whether they were more, or less, offensive than the word git. Unfortunately, I had to intervene, as you are here to deliver a verdict, not to take part in a quiz. However, despite my entreaties Miss Weasley returned to this point and told you that these words originally meant, respectively: male genitalia, a person who participates in an act of sodomy, and female genitalia.
She suggested that few people knew this, and they regarded these words as innocuous. She invited you to consider the possibility that words change over the centuries and that the word git is more socially acceptable than many words she knew, and is really only a very mild form of abuse. Miss Weasley claimed that it can even be used affectionately between friends. She suggested that calling someone a git as a real form of abuse is more likely to encourage them to laugh at you, and that, rather than indulging in this spurious case, which she considered to be a monumental waste of time. Mr Malfoy, she suggested, should simply have laughed at her brother’s childishness, because, she claimed, “Sometimes, Ron can be a bit of a pillock”. Surprisingly, the defendant, Mr Potter, and Miss Granger, all nodded in agreement with his sister’s assessment.
Miss Weasley then alleged that Mr Malfoy himself should be well aware of the meaning of insulting words, as the only thing in which he excelled at school was making hurtful remarks about others. She then offered to give some examples of language which would not only accurately describe Mr Malfoy, but would also be a lot more offensive than “git”.
At this point, Miss Golightly’s examination ended and, perhaps sensing that Miss Weasley would be no less hostile a witness than was Miss Grainger, Mr Scrote declined his right to cross-examination and, unfortunately, Miss Weasley left the witness box, depriving us of her witty and enjoyable testimony.
And so finally we reach today. You have, I hope been educated, and even entertained, by this case. In a few moments I will ask you to leave and consider your verdict. Before you do so, I leave you with these final few words of advice. These are the main points I believe you must consider.
First, how offensive is the word git? Should it be taken in its original meaning, regarding legitimacy of birth? Should it be taken as a mild, but hurtful insult? Or, should it simply be regarded as childish and petty, not worth worrying about?
If you decide on the first, then there can be no doubt that Mr Malfoy has been slandered. If you decide on the last, then it is likely that he has not. There is, however, the middle ground.
Which brings us to the second point to consider, is Mr Malfoy a git? You have heard contradictory evidence about his previous behaviour; you must weigh up what you have heard and decide who to believe. Does Mr Malfoy’s previous behaviour make him a git? If you think it does, then Mr Weasley has simply stated facts.
Some previous libel cases would appear to have been moving towards the possibility that speaking the truth could sometimes be libellous. We are fortunate that none of them ever reached court. We should regard those cases as an aberration and assume that if Mr Malfoy is a git, then Mr Weasley is innocent.
If, however, Mr Malfoy is not a git, and git is a serious insult, then Mr Weasley has libelled him. If you believe this, then you must find the defendant guilty, assess the level of damage done to Mr Malfoy’s reputation, and assess the level of damages to be awarded.
(At this point Miss Weasley shouted, “Malfoy’s reputation isn’t worth a Knut, anyway!” and was cautioned about her behaviour.)
Witches and Wizards of the Jury, that concludes my summary, please go and consider this matter. I await your verdict with interest.
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