Representational photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Representational photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

A bank robbery trial was stopped by the judge at the Jamaica High Court on February 21, 1974, much to the surprise of those present. Abhishek Mukherjee retells an unusual stoppage in court proceedings.

The bank robbery case of Kingston had drawn significant attention. A small crowd had assembled at the Jamaica High Court that Thursday. The usual proceedings followed in the courtroom: witnesses were summoned, questions were asked, documents were produced, minutes were recorded…

And then everything went quiet. The Judge was about to make an unexpected statement. Everyone waited with bated breath. What was this sudden stoppage for? Why had the trial been halted?

He spoke, in a grave voice: “I have to tell you, gentlemen, that Boyce is dismissed.”

Who was this Boyce? Surely he had got the name wrong? The confused defence counsel intervened, and rightly so: “But m’lud, my client’s name is Bryce…”

But there was no mistake, as he — and everyone else — found out: “Ah, quite so, but I thought you would like to know the latest Test score from Sabina Park.”

Indeed, West Indies were hitting out frantically as declaration loomed. Their lead had stretched past 200, and Garry Sobers was at the crease. Keith Boyce had perished in an attempt to go for big hits. The Judge had perfectly justified reasons to concentrate on the match score.

What followed was even more astonishing. The entire courtroom waited in silence (what option did they have?) as the Judge read out the current scenario of the Test. This included poor Bryce as well, expecting a verdict at some point of time…

It is not known whether he halted court proceedings during any other day’s play, or at some other time that day, but he certainly did it on that one occasion.

As for the Test, it turned out to be a classic. Rohan Kanhai declared with a 230-run lead. Ten of the English batsmen did not reach forty, but Dennis Amiss did — and he scored 262 not out in a marathon nine-and-a-half-hour effort.

England were bailed out thanks to Amiss. Did Bryce meet with same fortune? Perhaps the record lies in some old court document.

Brief scores:

England 353 (Geoff Boycott 68, Mike Denness 67; Garry Sobers 3 for 65, Arthur Barrett 3 for 86) and 432 for 9 (Dennis Amiss 262*; Arthur Barrett 3 for 87) drew with West Indies 583 for 9 decl. (Roy Fredericks 94, Lawrence Rowe 120, Alvin Kallicharran 93, Garry Sobers 57, Bernard Julien 66; Bob Willis 3 for 97, Tony Greig 3 for 102).