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.

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David is an English barrister, writer, public performer and keynote speaker. His full profile can be found on his website.

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