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Trial and Error
It'sHard To Know Exactly Where To Begin. But first, let me explain why I'm in jail.
The trial had lasted for eighteen days, and from the moment the judge had entered the courtroom the public benches had been filled to overflowing. The jury at Leeds Crown Court had been out for almost two days, and rumor had it that they were hopelessly divided. On the barristers' bench there was talk of hung juries and retrials, as it had been more than eight hours since Mr. Justice Cartwright had told the foreman of the jury that their verdict need no longer be unanimous: a majority of ten to two would be acceptable.
Suddenly there was a buzz in the corridors, and the members of the jury filed quietly into their places. Press and public alike began to stampede back into court. All eyes were on the foreman of the jury, a fat, jolly-looking little man dressed in a double-breasted suit, striped shirt and a colorful bow tie, striving to appear solemn. He seemed the sort of fellow with whom, in normal circumstances, I would have enjoyed a pint at the local. But these were not normal circumstances.
As I climbed back up the steps into the dock, my eyes settled on a pretty blond who had been seated in the gallery every day of the trial. I wondered if she attended all the sensational murder trials or if she was just fascinated by this one. She showed absolutely no interest in me, and like everyone else, was concentrating her full attention on the foreman of the jury.
The clerk of the court, dressed in a wig and a long black gown, rose and readout from a card the words I suspect he knew by heart.
"Will the foreman of the jury please stand."
The jolly little fat man rose slowly from his place.
"Please answer my next question yes or no. Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict on which at least ten of you are agreed?"
"Yes, we have."
"Members of the jury, do you find the prisoner at the bar guilty or not guilty as charged?"
There was total silence in the courtroom.
My eyes were fixed on the foreman with the colorful bow tie. He cleared his throat and said,“...
I first met Jeremy Alexander in 1978, at a CBI training seminar in Bristol. Fifty-six British companies who were looking for ways to expand into Europe had come together for a briefing on Community law. At the time that I signed up for the seminar, Cooper's, the company of which I was chairman, ran 127 vehicles of varying weights and sizes and was fast becoming one of the largest private trucking companies in Britain.
My father had founded the firm in 1931, starting out with three vehicles two of them pulled by horses-and an overdraft limit of ten pounds at his local Martins bank. By the time we became "Cooper & Son" in 1967, the company had seventeen vehicles with four wheels or more and delivered goods all over the north of England. But the old man still resolutely refused to exceed his ten-pound overdraft limit.
I once expressed the view, during a downturn in the market, that we should be looking further afield in search of new business perhaps even as far as the Continent. But my father wouldn't hear of it. "Not a risk worth taking," he declared. He distrusted anyone born south of the Humber, let alone those who lived on the other side of the Channel. "If God put a strip of water between us, he must have had good reasons for doing so," were his final words on the subject. I would have laughed, if I hadn't realized he meant it.
When he retired in 1977 reluctantly, at the age of seventy I took over as chairman, and began to set in motion some ideas I'd been working on for the past decade, though I knew my father didn't approve of them. Europe was only the beginning of my plans for the company's expansion. Within five years I wanted to go public. By then, I realized, we would require an overdraft facility of at least a million pounds, and would therefore have to move our account to a bank that recognized that the world stretched beyond the county boundaries of Yorkshire.
It was around this time that I heard about the CBI seminar at Bristol, and applied for a place.
The seminar began on the Friday, with an opening ad, dress from the head of the European directorate of the CBI. After that the delegates split into eight small working groups, each chaired by an expert on Community law. My group was headed by Jeremy Alexander. I admired him from the moment he started speaking-in fact, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that I was overawed. He was torally self-assured, and as I was to learn, he could effortlessly present a convincing argument on any subject, from the superiority of the Code Napoléon to the inferiority of England's cricket team.
He lectured us for an hour on the fundamental differences in practice and procedure between the member states of the Community, then answered all our questions on commercial and company law, even finding time to explain the significance of the Uruguay Round. Like me, the other members of our group never stopped taking notes.
We broke up for lunch a few minutes before one, and I managed to grab a place next to Jeremy. I was already beginning to think that he might be the ideal person to advise me on how to go about achieving my European ambitions.