Lunch with Barbara was beyond comprehension. When I think of it now I cannot understand anything of it. The girl who sat across the table from me had just destroyed my male oriented attitude toward life and the law. The very worst part of the whole episode was that I knew that I was not in the same league. Barbara had a passion for the truth. Me, I had a wonderful dream about being the great Australian Marshal Hall of the legal world. Sir Edward Marshall Hall, known as “The Great Defender”. The righter of wrongs. The defender of those unjustly accused. Mine was just a dream – hers was a passion.
She asked me to tell her what had been said that she ought not to have heard.
“We all went into the Judge’s chambers and they sat around in armchairs smoking big cigars – at least he did – and they started chatting about the probable verdict. You were right when you described it as a ‘Boys’ Club’. The judge spoke to the defence counsel and complimented him on his defence. ‘Young Nikolaidis came across very well and you got the jury onside. And they don’t like the girl.’
“The two barristers carefully avoided mentioning the possible sentence, assuming that it would be a guilty verdict. Then, just before we were told the jury was ready he said, ‘I think the wrong bitch is on trial!’ They both laughed and I turned away. I didn’t believe what I had heard.”
I expected an outburst from Barbara but there was none. “Hmmph. Another win for the boys. It’s only been legal for a married woman to own property in her own right for about eighty years. Men still think they have total rights over their wife. A husband can’t be charged with raping his wife. That’s a law that has to be changed. As for provocation! Anyway let’s leave it. For now.”
Gradually we got around to us. She spoke about her ‘I love you but I don’t like you‘ statement.
“I’m sorry I took my anger out on you. It wasn’t fair. Of course any lawyer will be pleased if their client gets off or is given a small sentence. Can we finish our lunch – I’m really happy that Mr Baker reacted so nicely. It was very generous of him. When we finish lunch, and we have the rest of the day off, can we go for a drive down the bay?”
We took the train back to Hartwell station and I got my little pale green Morris Minor 1000 and we forgot all about the law and just enjoyed each other’s company.
Barbara and I did not marry. We were engaged and then I got frightened of the commitment and did not behave as well as I should have. One day about a year later she took the ring off her finger and I didn’t stop the car to ask her to stop crying and put it back on. And I gave up doing law and Barbara went to Europe and became a nanny to a family in Italy. When she came back I had gone bush and then became a school teacher. She married and raised a family.
I did plan on writing something about the changes to Victoria law that removed ‘Provocation’ as a partial defence and the introduction of ‘Victim Impact Statements’. I also intended writing something about the continuing problem of men murdering partners and ex-partners at the rate of about one a week.
When I started writing this series my brother, who likes a challenge, asked me if I minded if he looked up Barbara’s whereabouts. I told his that would be OK. I thought after all these years I would like to write to her to say hello. But more specifically to apologise for how I had behaved in the end.
But I left it eight months too late. I hope my story does her as much honour as she deserved.