Yesterday it was a matter of a ponytail, a pair of kitchen scissors and a bedroom in Dudley that prompted the learned minds of the High Court to consider the legal, moral and philosophical implications of the unwanted haircut.
Two senior judges spent almost an hour debating issues such as whether hair is dead or alive, what hair means to a woman and whether it is “intrinsic to the individual”, before reaching a decision on whether it was a crime for a man to cut off his ex-girlfriend’s ponytail against her will.
When, in 1712, Pope wrote his mock-heroic masterpiece The Rape of the Lock, following the hullabaloo that ensued after Lord Petre cut off a lock of hair of his beloved fellow aristocrat, Arabella Fermor, without her permission, the writer was assumed to be poking fun at the over-reaction of contemporary society. “What dire offence from am’rous causes springs, What mighty contests rise from trivial things”, he wrote.
But Sir Igor Judge, the president of the Queen’s Bench Division, and Mr Justice Cresswell took a different view.
In the first case of its kind, they ruled that hair could be regarded as a person’s “crowning glory” and that magistrates at Dudley, West Midlands, had been wrong when they decided last June that Michael Ross Smith had no case to answer on a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
And just imagine if he had clipped her fingernails! Again, we have a crime which is dependent upon how a woman feels about something. No doubt it will soon be a felony to fail to pay sufficient attention to a woman when she is speaking or to make her feel sad.
On the other hand, what sort of lunatic prefers a woman with short hair? I find myself insensibly favoring this new interpretation of the law criminalizing hair-cutting, as women would no longer be chopping off their locks on a whim and all those gay hairdressers would probably be happier in jail together anyhow.