There is a new court house at St Albans. It is air-conditioned. In May of this year the Crown Court was sitting there. A case was being tried about pornographic films and books. Stephen Balogh was there each day. He was a casual hand employed by solicitors for the defence. Just as a clerk at £5 a day, knowing no law. The case dragged on and on. He got exceedingly bored. He made a plan to liven it up. He knew something about a gas called nitrous oxide, N2O2 should be inferior character? It gives an exhilarating effect when inhaled. It is called 'laughing gas'. He had learned all about it at Oxford. During the trial he took a half-cylinder of it from the hospital car park. He carried it about with him in his brief case. His plan was to put the cylinder at the inlet to the ventilating system and to release the gas into the court. It would emerge from the outlets which were just in front of counsel's row. So the gas, he thought, would enliven their speeches. It would be diverting for the others. A relief from the tedium of pornography.
'… I am actually in the wrong court at the moment … The proceedings which I intended to subvert are next door. Therefore, it is not contempt against your court … for which I should be tried.'
The judge replied: 'You were obviously intending at least to disturb the proceedings going on in courts in this building, of which this is one … You will remain in custody tonight, and I will consider what penalty I impose upon you … in the morning.'
Next morning Balogh was brought again before the judge. The inspector gave evidence of his background. Balogh was asked if he had anything to say. He said:
'I do not feel competent to conduct it myself. I am not represented in court … I have committed no contempt … I was arrested for the theft of a bottle of nitrous oxide … no further charges have been preferred.'
The judge gave sentence:
'It is difficult to imagine a more serious contempt of court and the consequences might have been very grave if you had carried out your express intention. I am not going to overlook this and you will go to prison for six months … I am not dealing with any charge for theft … I am exercising the jurisdiction to deal with the contempt of court which has been vested in this court for hundreds of years. That is the basis on which … you will now go to prison for six months.'