Judge Rinder: ‘I wish I could use more Yiddish in the courtroom’

Judge Rinder: ‘I wish I could use more Yiddish in the courtroom’

Barrister behind Judge Rinder's Crime Stories explains why he loves being Jewish and why he hates lime green mankinis

Francine Wolfisz is the Features Editor for Jewish News.

Judge Robert Rinder
Judge Robert Rinder

Since Judge Robert Rinder burst onto daytime television two years ago, his astutely-crafted, courtroom put-downs have become legendary.

They range from the dismissive: “You’ve got about as much chance of getting that as me jumping out of an aircraft doing jazz hands” – to the more succinct: “Please get to the point before I fall into a coma.”

But if you ask the witty criminal barrister what he’d really love to say, it would involve the use of Yiddish.

Speaking to Jewish News to coincide with his new series, Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories, the 38-year-old, reveals: “I’m very, very proud to be Jewish and say so, wherever I go.

“Jewishness is completely central to my identity and at the epicentre of our family. I just wish I could use more of my knowledge of Yiddish the programme.

“Sadly we just don’t have the audience. People don’t know what I mean when I say: ‘So and so’s not a bad boy, he’s not wicked, he’s not nasty, he’s just a lobbos!’ It’s wonderful, people would know exactly what you mean.”

I ask Rinder, who was raised in a traditional Jewish family in Southgate, if he would contemplate slipping in meshuganah or shmerel in forthcoming episodes?

Meshuganah, that’s a great word, but no, I think it’s a little bit too much,” replies Rinder lightheartedly.

“The problem with Jewish insults is they are quite insulting, so I wouldn’t call anyone a meshuganah or a shmerel – well maybe a shmerel sometimes.

“When a person gives someone £5,000, doesn’t put it in writing and then comes to court expecting an enforceable contract, you could say, ‘you’re a shmerel’. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I think I’ll try it.”

Described as a cross between Jeremy Kyle and Judge Judy, Rinder takes pains to explain that all cases are “completely real and authentic” – even the one involving a 74-year-old toothless busker, a lime green mankini and an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction at a battle of the bands.

“He came out to the audience and all of his privacy was on display,” Rinder reveals in trying to explain the background to this case, which prompted even laughter from the presiding judge himself.

“Sadly we just don’t have the audience. People don’t know what I mean when I say: ‘So and so’s not a bad boy, he’s not wicked, he’s not nasty, he’s just a lobbos!’ It’s wonderful, people would know exactly what you mean.”

But his latest foray in television is something of a departure – and more closely connected to his experience as a criminal barrister for 15 years.

Rinder, who gained a first class honours degree at Manchester University (where he became good friends with actor Benedict Cumberbatch), has been involved in a string of high-profile fraud and criminal cases, including the manslaughter of detainees in Iraq by British servicemen.

He also represented one of the four men charged with the 2003 murders of Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis.

Speaking about the new ITV1 series, Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories, he said: “It takes a look at the most serious cases you will have read about in the newspapers, some of which really shocked the nation – murder, bigamy and fraud.

“You may have read the stories, but you won’t know the inside detail of what happened, so the cases are re-enacted in real life drama and you’ll also hear from the police officers investigating the case, the scientists who were involved and sometimes the victims themselves.”

As a legal professional who has been involved in a number of these cases, I ask why he thinks crime stories capture the imagination of the public.

“I think that’s a really interesting question – and it’s because crime involves the worst things that the mind can imagine and represents human drama at its most extreme.

“It’s also about solving a crime and how that crime came about. So it deals with every facet of human life and I think that’s why people are so interested.”

I ask if he has ever become emotionally involved in any of the cases he has been attached to.

The well-spoken Rinder, who married his partner, also a lawyer, in Ibiza three years ago, tells me: “As a barrister your main job is to be involved with the law and to advance your client’s case, regardless of what you think, because you are a hired mouthpiece for your client. Sometimes that can be terribly challenging.

Robert Rinder, aka Judge Rinder, is famous for his courtroom put-downs

“The reality is, from time to time a witness will come to court, who you are cross examining, and it can get very emotional.

“Your job is to do your best and remain dispassionate. I have to tell you, sometimes it’s the cases you least expect.

“But any barrister will be affected at least once in their career by something – and I’m no exception.”

Earlier this year, Judge Rinder beat off This Morning to win best daytime programme at the Royal Television Society awards, with judges calling it “incredibly watchable, distinctive and entertaining”.

Rinder tells me he’s “really proud” of the show and is glad he took the opportunity to front his own show.

Plus, he would never have otherwise have experienced being chased into a cupboard backstage.

“That is true,” laughs Rinder. “Right at the beginning of the show, I don’t think they had organised the security properly, so one of the litigants I’d flung out of court for being a complete moron had decided to go on some unhappy rampage.

“He managed to get mildly close, but happily there was a closet between me and him. It was certainly a first for us all.”

Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories is on Monday to Friday, 2pm, ITV1.

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