Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Scientologists Sent Me to Prison-But I Still Have a Particle of Admiration for Their Ways

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Scientologists Sent Me to Prison-But I Still Have a Particle of Admiration for Their Ways

Article excerpt

I'm one of the shrinking number of Britons who can remember, with a distant thrill, the question: "And do ya have an embarrassin' moment to share wi' us?" Wilfred Pickles, Have a Go!, on the Light Programme. Twenty million listeners. Eat that, Chris Evans.

Embarrassing moments? As Frank Sinatra warbled, I've had a few. But only once has it landed me behind bars. It was 1978--scoundrel time. I was lurching back from the Goodge Street Spaghetti House, belly full of pasta and Chianti, when, outside the Church of Scientology, an ephebe invited me in "for a free intelligence test". Moi! With a PhD! And late for a seminar! (What was it that saucy student said? "Don't worry, Dr Sutherland, we all know that you can't remember our names after lunch.")

My companion, less liquored up, slid away. I went inside (sod the seminar), made a pretence of taking the test (first question: "Are you happy?") and raised a ruckus.

I denounced Scientology, and its founder, like a raving lunatic. Drink rarely had that effect on me. It was usually a one-way ticket to mumbledom. Not today. After quarter of an hour's yelling I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard the words, familiar to me from Z-Cars, "You're nicked."

I was frogmarched between two coppers a few yards down to Vine Street police station and thence into a cell for a very sobering hour. My arresters, I later apprehended, were checking with Hendon as to whether I had form. No, as they testified the next morning at Bow Street Magistrates' Court: I was of (previously) "excellent character". …

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