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Book Extract

A Matter of Conduct
The True Story of a Man who Battled a Bank and Won


London, England – April 11, 2002

The tall man in the black suit appeared with stealth and paused at the doorway between the respondent’s room and the main chamber. For a split second, all you could focus on was the pristine white bow tie. It was in perfect balance with the silvery hair that sat atop his poised head. He was, without question, unlike any other court clerk we had ever seen before.

He broke the silence with a near whisper, the kind that had a crispness that made you automatically pull your shoulders back and give your full attention.

You may enter now.

We emerged from our respective entrances into the huge chamber—the appellants and the respondents. The morning light crept in through the stained glass windows that spanned the high walls. Above us, the stalactite chandeliers shimmered.

We all stood before their Lordships who were already seated in the centre. The addition of the five law lords did little to fill the cavernous room in which we were now assembled. I immediately recognized three from our reconnaissance visit. I wondered if they would recognize us as the odd group of spectators from the day before—and if they did, would it help or hinder?

On the respondent’s team we were two men, two women. All Jamaicans. Tourists in casual garb one day, court officers and players in robes and suits the next. Not your normal occurrence. Normal. That was a word I hadn’t been able to define in almost a decade.

We were at Downing Street, home of the Privy Council. For my esteemed lawyers, Christopher Dunkley and Hilary Phillips, Queen’s Counsel, this was the Holy Grail—the highest court of appeal for member nations of the British Commonwealth. I tried for a fleeting moment to feel pleased for them. After watching the duo work together, I knew that if there were two lawyers worthy of a chance to deliver a memorable performance, it was this pair. That I was the reason they were here was almost an honour. Almost.

I felt a slight pressure on my back as if to say this is it. I was glad she hadn’t grabbed my hand. It was already cold and clammy with sweat. I stole a glance at my sister standing next to me, raw determination fixed on her face. Pat had put her family and medical practice on hold to see me through the final steps of my legal ordeal. For my spirited sibling, dressed in her signature warrior black, this was to be the knockout punch that would end the war waged against her brother and good family name. I had never been quite the natural fighter that she was.

As for me, the accused, this was the final destination in a trip through hell that had scorched some ten years of my life. The faces of my loved ones flashed in my mind, one by one, and finally paused on the image of my father.

On cue we all bowed to their Lordships. They each returned a nod. Again the clerk spoke.

Counsel, please state your representations.

A wave of nausea stirred in my stomach. The hearing had officially begun.

It’s like standing before a firing squad and not knowing if or when the bullets will hit. Your life—someone else’s decision. Your name—one final chance to clear it.

I stood there, paralysed, as the voices began to swirl around me, filling the huge chamber. My nightmare was coming true. How would this new set of law lords sieve through the evidence and view the case that had stalked me for so long? What if they missed something? What if my attorneys simply ran out of steam? They were only human. What if I was just meant to be another sad example of a good guy who finished last? What if that was, in fact, my sorry fate?

I squeezed my eyes shut and let my world go black for a few seconds. It was nothing short of ludicrous the way one’s life could sink into a horrible abyss with just a few ill-fated twists and turns. And then I put the question out to the universe. How did it come to be that I, Dalton Yap, just another hard-working husband and father, would be here today on official business in a building next to the residence of the British Prime Minister?

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