INSUFFERABLE LITTLE CHILDREN

I used to rate Cambridge University as a centre of academic excellence.  I even considered taking up a place there, many years ago, but common sense prevailed and I opted for McGill. A wise choice as it transpired.

Cambridge University recently became the University of Cambridge, a distinction without a difference, and it has gone badly downhill ever since.  The latest absurdity making waves is the demand from insufferable little children, also known as students, to lower the burden and standard of proof in sexual assault cases from the criminal to the civil.  This means that any allegation is proved if it is more than likely to have happened, otherwise known as the balance of probabilities.  The criminal standard requires proof of the allegation beyond a reasonable doubt.

In an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor signed by more than 800 students, clearly being educated beyond their natural intelligence, they say that “upholding the criminal standard of proof actively discourages survivors and victims of sexual harassment, rape and assault from engaging with the disciplinary procedure.” Why, I ask rhetorically?

The letter goes on. Changing the system, they say, “will give survivors more confidence to access it.” Why, again I ask rhetorically?  Even at the University of Cambridge, there must be support staff and counsellors and tutors ready to help and advise.

The key to this absurd statement is the word ‘survivors’, an emotive word designed to generate an emotive response. From the outset of my career as a practising barrister, I was taught that emotions have no part to play in the criminal process, for obvious reasons.  Emotions cloud clear and analytical judgment, which is the bedrock of a sound and impartial legal system.

What these students fail to appreciate is the very real damage that false allegations from ‘survivors’ can do to those innocent young men falsely accused.  They should look back only a few months to the string of false allegations made by ‘survivors’ and which were proved to have been false.  Remember Oliver Mears and Liam Allan and Isaac Itiary and Samson Makele, who hit the headlines nationwide, and there are many others besides.  If the students of the University of Cambridge have their way, how many other innocent young men risk being falsely accused, and, perish the thought, convicted and sentenced to lengthy terms of imprisonment?  For Oliver Mears, the strain of awaiting trial caused him such stress that he left his college, with his life and his future in tatters.

As somebody once said, better that ninety nine guilty men go free than one innocent man is falsely convicted.

I have some words of advice for these insufferable little children: grow up and shut up, memorise the lines from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice that begin: ‘The quality of mercy is not strained…” and read, learn and inwardly digest.

WILL THEY NEVER LEARN?

It beggars belief!  In the recent past, as my regular readers will remember, Plod and the CPS have distinguished themselves beyond the call of duty by charging men with rape where the evidence did not support such a charge.  It went farther.  The evidence showed beyond a reasonable doubt that the complainant was lying, no doubt for her own good reasons.

You would have thought, in the light of these revelations, that Plod would proceed with the upmost caution before charging the grave offence of rape, but they are having none of it, and as the most recent revelation shows, these important lessons have still not been learned.

I refer to the latest case to collapse at the door of the court. This was a case where two males had been charged with rape, despite the complainant making it abundantly clear that only one forced himself upon her.  In her statement to Plod, she said: “I do not believe Male Two should be charged.  I do not believe he did anything wrong on the night.”  What could be clearer than that!?!  Apparently not clear enough for Plod, as they charged Male Two with rape as well.

What makes this case worse than the others is the fact that the complainant’s statement was never disclosed to the defence as it should have been, and it was only by chance that it came to light. The complainant was so disgusted with the way Plod had behaved that she withdrew her complaint against Male One.

Wheel on the platitudinous Alison Saunders, the outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions who, for most of us, can’t go out quickly enough.  She said that the case was dropped because the Clown Prosecution Service had a continuing duty of review.    She went on: “I am really sorry if she feels let down, because that’s absolutely not what we want. We want to make sure we make the right decisions for the complainant, suspects ad for the public as a whole.”  Utter claptrap!

It can’t get any worse.  Please Alison, put us all out of our misery.  Take gardening leave, and at the very least, let somebody else take over the day to day running of the Service until a full time replacement can be found.

 

RENT A MOB

I have been reading with sorrow the tragedy of Alfie Evans who, according to some of the best medical specialists in the country, is terminally ill with no prospect of recovery, let alone being able to lead a normal life.  As before with Charlie Gard, the highest courts in the land have considered all the available evidence and have with heavy hearts granted an application to turn off Alfie’s life support machine and let him die.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the latest challenge because it was the same legal argument – albeit with a different legal term – that they made in February and March and moving him to a hospital in Italy, his father’s wish, was “contrary to his best interests”.

The judges said: “The application of a different legal label… does not change the fact that the court has already determined the issues which the parents now seek, again, to advance.”  For my part, I do not understand why the parents are being advised to return to the courts again and again and again, when it should be quite obvious that the courts’ decision will be the same, again and again and again.  As any competent lawyer should know, repetition does not make a bad point better.

“The views of the parents do not take precedence and do not give them an ‘unfettered right’ to make choices and exercise rights on behalf of Alfie.”

The judges said Alfie was not being “detained” in hospital or “deprived of his liberty… the doctrine of habeas corpus.”

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital has said continuing to treat Alfie, who has an undiagnosed degenerative neurological condition, was “inhumane” and “futile”.

It said taking him abroad for treatment was “expressly not in his best interests”, adding: “Our priority is to continue providing Alfie with the best care possible.”

Of course I feel for the parents who are clutching at straws in their distress, hoping against hope for a miracle, and suddenly, judging from the reports in the Media, everybody is a expert, and presumably, that includes Alfie’s dad and his megaphone.

But what I find all the more distressing is the emergence of the mob culture when compassion and wise counsel should prevail.  This ‘rent a mob’ appears time and again to shout and scream and jostle and threaten, regardless of the ’cause’ they seek to espouse, even if they bothered to inform themselves, which they don’t.  Disinformation, not information, is their only weapon in their battle against law and order and reason.

This mob travels from one hotspot to another, ready to challenge the ‘status quo’ with their confrontational behaviour.  They can’t be reasoned with, as reasoning is alien to their culture and an intellectual exercise they are incapable of performing.  Their demeanour and banners of hate are the same, whether it’s women’s rights, or slavery, or Tory scum, or Jews, or doctors, or Uncle Tom Cobley, and so it goes on. With Alfie Evans, the mob forces their way into Alder Hay Hospital, disrupting the work of doctors and nurses, regardless of the consequences, which means that the police, with better things to do, or at least I hope so, are called to deal with an unlawful assembly.

What those who use the services of the mob fail to understand is that the price to be paid by confrontation achieves very little.  They have no room in a civilised society, and civilised people will pay them scant regard.

There is now a determined but futile effort to take Alfie to Rome, apparently with the blessing of the Pope.  Whilst the Holy Father is a powerful figure in the Catholic community, not even he can perform miracles, so to pretend otherwise is a cruel deception.

Far better for the parents to receive specialist counselling to prepare themselves for what comes next, and most important of all, to act in Alfie’s best interests.  It is not in his best interests to suffer needlessly.

 

PLOD IN THE FRAME AGAIN

Some interesting news for your delectation:  Alison Saunders, the beleaguered Director of Public Prosecutions, will not be offered an extension to her five year contract when it expires in October.  I wonder why not.

According to Alison, it was her decision to shoulder arms, and any suggestion that the government has had enough of her questionable competence is flatly contradicted by her, but then, it would be wouldn’t it?

Is it only five years since Ms. Saunders was appointed?  It sees much longer.  In fairness to her, she has done her best with limited intelligence to run an enormous and unwieldy service, and inevitably mistakes were going to be made.  But the difference between a leader and an also ran is the ability to sort out the mess, admit mistakes, put them right and move on.

Before the creation of the Clown Prosecution Service in 1986, Plod used to prosecute their own cases on their own patch, they had their own solicitors, and for the most part, their cases were farmed out to local barristers.  It was all very cosy and incestuous.  If mistakes were made, they were ‘corrected’ in-house, and life went on.  By keeping it local, blunders, and worse still, blatant corruption, were swept under the carpet, and the lads stuck together.  Corroboration, an important and independent part of the prosecutor’s armoury, consisted of one police officer signing his colleague’s pocket book to signify agreement without even reading it, and putting it before the jury as the cast-iron truth, on my babby’s life!

The worst excesses of local prosecutions came with the signed confession, long before the days of tape recorders, when confessions were faithfully recorded in the interviewing officers’ pocket books well after the confession was made, and usually over a mug of tea in the police canteen. The oft repeated maxim that the notes were made whilst matters were still fresh in the memory was all that was required.  It was fertile ground for fabrication and ground that was regularly tilled.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that Plod to a man were corrupt, but as they say, all it takes is one bad apple.  The idea that a national prosecuting service would bring respectability to the task of bringing the guilty to justice slowly took root, and in 1986, during the reign of the Blessed St. Margaret, a former barrister, the Clown Prosecution Service was born, in the hope that there would be uniform national standards applied to address the criticisms of incompetence and  worse still, corruption.  It has been better than before, but not without its problems.

But what has been Ms. Saunders’ undoing has been sex, and her pathetic  and dangerously complacent response to it.  I refer specifically to the recent scandal of sexual complainants lying to Plod and even to the jury when no sexual abuse had taken place.  There are all sorts of excuses and explanations, but its root cause is the direction from on high to Plod to believe without question these false allegations.  In so doing, they are not properly investigated, if at all, and for the most part, these allegations take place in private, with one person’s word against another’s.  This is where independent corroboration, not fabricated, is vital in the pursuit of the truth, and sadly, Ms. Saunders has been found wanting.  Worse still, she won’t admit it.

She was an in-house appointment, which was a mistake.  Word on the street is that the government has acknowledged that the post of Director of Public Prosecutions is not one for intellectual pygmies, so the search for the next director will cast a wide net.  It’s a thankless task, so I cannot see many heavyweight legal luminaries putting their names forward.  And before you ask, no, I have no intention of supping from the poisoned chalice.

There is much work to be done, and little time to restore damaged reputations.  So my strong advice to Ms. Saunders in the remaining 6 months, say and do as little as possible to preserve your publicly funded and very generous pension.

WHAT’S SEX GOT TO DO WITH IT?

It’s that time of the year again, when I renew my practising certificate, and the Bar Council in its wisdom requires me to provide the usual updates on my practice, and what I’ve been up to over the past twelve months.  There is also a question about my sexual orientation, and I got to wondering, how is this relevant to my practice as a barrister?  I am sure there is somebody in the Bar Council’s office who can answer this question, but I am mystified.

Over the recent past,  hardly a day goes by without some new sexual revelation, almost ad nauseam, not specifically about the profession, although judges are notorious cross dressers, by necessity not by choice I add.  Let’s face it, if you dress up in a long flowing gown, with matching stockings and buckled shoes, and topped off with a full length wig, what do you expect?

Sex has come a long way since I was first exploring my manhood.  I travelled a familiar route in those days, down to the pub on a Saturday night, check out the local Totty, and if a suitable candidate presented herself, I’d sashay over with my cool dude expression: “Hey Babe, what are we doing tonight?”  I thought this more sophisticated than: “Hey Babe, fancy a quickie?”  Most times I’d be seen off by Mr. Beefcake, Totty’s man of the moment who’d emerge from the Gents and in no mood to share her affections, but every now and again Totty would be impressed by my balls, metaphorically speaking of course, and I was off and running.

My courtship routine followed a familiar pattern.  On the first date I’d see her home, an affectionate peck on the cheek to put down a marker, I’d get her phone number, and withdraw, again metaphorically speaking.  On the second date, during a romantic dinner for two at some dimly lit tavern, it was an opportunity to get intimate, not necessarily the full nine yards,  but an awkward grope on the sofa was the very least I could expect. I have to say that during our torrid tumble, it never occurred to me to get something in writing, to protect myself in the years to come, when I was rich and famous, against a claim that I had breached Totty’s human rights, or worse still, that I had sexually abused her.

The other thing that concerns me, and I have written about this before, is the prevalence of sexual complaints decades after they were supposed to have been committed, with a variety of unconvincing reasons for the delay.  There should be a limitation period, I suggest ten years, beyond which no complaint will be considered, let alone prosecuted, as is the case in the civil law, where limitation periods are strictly applied.

Back to sex, and speaking for myself, I don’t like one night stands, I’ve never been that sort of guy.  It’s demeaning, so I, along with many others, start a relationship in the hope that it will be fulfilling in every sense of the word, and possibly lead to marriage and a life together.

As the Church of England Marriage Service tells us, marriage is not to be entered into lightly or wantonly, and in my professional experience, I am sometimes asked to advise clients on the merits of a prenuptial agreement.  I say ‘sometimes’, because many couples in advance of marriage feel embarrassed and fearful that their blossoming relationship may be irreparably damaged by even mentioning such an agreement, let alone signing on the dotted line, as somehow it smacks of impending failure before they have taken a single step on the road of life. That is not something on which any professional can advise, as it needs a crystal ball.

When it comes to sexual relationships, there is a real need for re-education on both sides of the debate, coupled with more tolerance, so that society can embrace such discussions openly, in a compassionate and informed manner, giving both sides of the story equal weight.