7th September

Without Prejudice

‘Do these words mean anything?’ Alex Mather said. ‘Does the writer of this letter have any idea what he is saying or has he just stuck in a phrase he’s vaguely heard somewhere and is hoping for the best?’

‘I don’t know, Alex,’ Jill Mather said. ‘What words? May I see it?’

Alex kept the letter in his hand.

‘ “Without prejudice”,’ he said. ‘Does that mean, “I am not prejudiced, I
am a completely rational, balanced sort of chap so anything I say is common sense”? Or, on the other hand –’

‘I think it means you are being constructive and honest in your correspondence about some dispute in a genuine effort to settle it but, notwithstanding that you may have made some admission or concession, if it goes to court none of what you’ve written in the letter can be used in evidence against you.’

‘Oh, like a kind of magic spell? You are a shower of shysters, cheats and all round grade-A bastards but because I’ve put “without prejudice” at the top of my letter you can’t sue me for saying those things?’

‘No, that’s not what I mean. Did you notice my use of the word “constructive”?’

‘I noticed your use of the word “notwithstanding”. You haven’t been studying to be a lawyer on the QT, have you?’

‘ “On the QT”? Is that a phrase you’ve vaguely heard somewhere? Anyway, what has this correspondent written that so upsets you?’

‘I’m not upset, I’m just wondering if “without prejudice” covers everything. In the context.’

‘In the context of what?’

‘Of the letter, of course.’

‘Alex, who has written this letter and what is it about?’

‘It’s about that parking ticket I got last week.’

‘So it’s your letter?’

‘Kind of.’

‘And you’ve written “without prejudice” at the top and then fired off a
stream of invective at officialdom?’

‘More or less. Stream of consciousness, I’d say.’

‘Are you going to pay or are you appealing against a gross injustice?’ ‘The cheque’s written. I just wondered . . .’

‘Give me the letter, Alex. Thank you. Now watch as I tear it to shreds. Without prejudice, which means with common sense.’

‘That’s what I thought it meant.’

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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