Thursday, 21 August 2014
by Geoffrey Robertson, QC
People believe that where there’s smoke there’s fire, but sometimes there is just a smoke machine.
By treating Cliff Richard as though he were a bank robber or a mass murderer, the police from Thames Valley and South Yorkshire, aided and abetted by the BBC and a Sheffield lay justice, have blasted his reputation around the world without giving him the first and most basic right to refute the allegation.
Last year, apparently, a complaint was made to police that the singer had indecently assaulted a youth in Sheffield a quarter of a century ago. The police had a duty to investigate, seek any corroborating evidence, and then – and only if they had reasonable grounds to suspect him of committing an offence – to give him the opportunity to refute those suspicions before a decision to charge is made.
But here, police subverted due process by waiting until Richard had left for vacation, and then orchestrating massive publicity for the raid on his house, before making any request for interview and before any question could arise of arresting or charging him.
Police initially denied “leaking” the raid, but South Yorkshire Police finally confirmed yesterday afternoon that they had been “working with a media outlet” – presumably the BBC – about the investigation. They also claimed “a number of people” had come forward with more information after seeing coverage of the operation – which leads one to suspect that this was the improper purpose behind leaking the operation in the first place. This alone calls for an independent inquiry.
The BBC and others were present when the five police cars arrived at Richard’s home, and helicopters were already clattering overhead. Police codes require that “searches must be conducted with due consideration for the property and privacy of the occupier and with no more disturbance than necessary” – here, the media were tipped off well ahead of time, and a smug officer read to the cameras a prepared press statement while the search was going on.
The police, by choosing to raid the property in broad daylight where they must have known its occupant was away, deliberately chose to defame him. Police codes also insist that “the officer in charge of the search shall first try to communicate with the occupier” but of course no such attempt was made – Richard first heard of the search when his lawyers called him after watching it on television.
Why was a search warrant granted? The law (the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act) requires police to satisfy a justice of the peace not only that there are reasonable grounds for believing an offence has been committed (if so, why had he not already been arrested?), but that there is material on the premises both relevant and of substantial value (to prove an indecent assault 25 years ago?).
Moreover, the warrant should only be issued if it is “not practicable to communicate” with the owner of the premises – and it would be a very dumb police force indeed that could find no way of contacting Cliff Richard. The police Codes exude concern that powers of search “be used fairly, responsibly, with respect for occupiers of premises being searched” – this search was conducted without any fairness or respect at all, other than for the media who were given every opportunity to film the bags of “evidence” being taken away.
This in itself is an interesting example of how historic English liberties – the rule against “general search warrants” achieved by John Wilkes in the 18th century – are now ignored. Although there is a section of the law headed “Search warrants – Safeguards” and a provision which requires police when applying for a warrant to actually identify the article they are looking for, this is routinely ignored. Here the police searched for five hours and took whatever they wanted.
This behaviour is unacceptable. The lay justice system has long been the Achilles heel of our civil liberties: many of these amateurs simply rubber stamp police requests. It is not known who issued this warrant (although the High Court has held that the identities of JPs should be made public).
What qualifications did he or she have and what steps were taken to protect the occupier’s privacy? What justification did the police give for this general search, with world-wide publicity? Was there any questioning of the police, so as to ensure that they could identify what they were looking for, and that it had “substantial value” for a prosecution? How was the Justice of the Peace satisfied that this whole exercise was not an improper means to publicise an uncorroborated allegation against the singer, in the hope of “shaking the tree” to attract further allegations which might give it some credibility? It is time that police were required, other than in emergencies, to obtain search warrants from circuit judges, who are alert to civil liberties.
What will happen now? If the outrageous treatment of Paul Gambuccini and Jimmy Tarbuck is any guide, Cliff Richard will remain in a cruel limbo for 18 months or so until the police and the CPS decide whether to charge him. This has been one of the most intolerable features of other high-profile arrests for "historic" offences, namely the inability of police and prosecutors to deliver Magna Carta’s truly historic promise that justice will not be delayed.
The CPS has taken up to 2 years to tell journalists like Patrick Foster that they will not be prosecuted, after unnecessary dawn raids, and publicity every time they are bailed. This lack of care for their liberty is amoral, because it subjects them to drawn-out psychological cruelty. If the CPS cannot decide whether to prosecute 3 months after receiving the police file, it should not prosecute at all.
A case like that of Cliff Richard could not happen in most European countries, where time limits prevent prosecutions of most sexual offences after a lapse of 10 years. Certainly after 25 years, fair trial becomes very difficult, as memories dim, alibi witnesses die and records disappear.
That does not necessarily mean that a prosecution is unjustified, especially in the case of those in positions of authority (priests, teachers, politicians etc) but it does require extra vigilance by law enforcement authorities to ensure that those under investigation do not have their names prematurely besmirched, and that they be given a fair opportunity to refute allegations before they are brought to court.
The police behaviour is also in plain breach of the privacy provisions of article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. But this case involves good old English civil liberties, laid down not 25 years but 250 years ago, in the course of a battle between John Wilkes and the government of George III. The Chief Justice then declared that an Englishman’s home was his castle – which must come as news to the South Yorkshire and Thames Valley police.
It is clear from their behaviour that an Englishman’s home is no longer a castle – even when, in Cliff Richard’s case, it is.
Tuesday, 19 August 2014
Sunday, 17 August 2014
I am going to have to try harder than I already am to avoid newspaper headlines - finding out today that even Sir Cliff is being dragged into the Yewtree witchhunts is genuinely making me feel suicidal. All of Britain seems to have become a Kafka novel, with all men featuring as the protagonists.
In case you somehow haven't realized yet, we live in an age now in which any man can have his whole life destroyed in the worst way imaginable on nothing more than the unsubstantiated word of any person with a grudge he's ever even shared an elevator ride with or, heaven forbid, had consensual sex with.... forty years after the alleged fact.
Seeing each individual bewildered old man going through this unimaginable ordeal is so sad: They cannot quite grasp why the world has turned so crazy and are unable to identify or articulate what machinations have brought it about. So the puppet show continues, and none of the children watching see who is pulling the strings .
The two most important factors in all this repugnant nightmare are the ones almost no-one is mentioning: firstly that Britain is unique in all of Europe in having no statute of limitations when it comes to allegations of sex crimes. This is why we aren't hearing of any similar scandals coming out of France or Germany, or the USA for that matter. This has led to a grossly unjust loophole that only recently has been exploited to bring utterly unfounded accusations with no accompanying physical evidence of any kind to court 40 years after their alleged occurrence and end in convictions.
The second thing is that there has been a 40 year campaign by feminists to expand the definition of rape and sexual assault to include pretty much any physical contact whatsoever, if the woman so decides. They have been wildly successful in their attempts to redefine male sexuality as inherently predatory, pathological and abusive.
This works to the benefit of feminism itself, since it helps to further demonize men and hence draw in more donations, political influence and apparent justification for the otherwise blatant obsolescence of their hate movement. It also benefits the state, because by turning one half of the population against the other half, it fatally weakens any sense of unity and kinship that could otherwise pose a threat to whatever their plans for us are.
But it doesn't help us. All it does is make fundamentally necessary human contact more and more frightening and alien, and all of us more and more isolated and alone. I've said it before many times and before all this is over I'll have said it many times again: Feminism is a force of oppression, not liberation. It has done more damage to simple, natural human relationships than any other force in human history, and it's nowhere near finished yet.
But the bovine masses don't care, they'll lap the newest 'paedo' scandal up and scream for the heads of those accused, too stupid to realize any one of them could be next. Or their fathers, their brothers, their husbands, their sons. But if they don't speak out against it now, maybe they deserve what's coming. Maybe you do too.
Aw, I can't write any more about this. It's all so black and hopeless, and heartless beyond belief.
See you all in Hell, if we're not there already.
Tuesday, 12 August 2014
I didn't actually know the man, of course. I'll grant you that. But he's in me somewhere nonetheless, and searching myself I find he feels closer to me in some odd ways than all but my closest friends, and there are words he's said up there upon the glowing screen that have meant more to me, and made more of an impression upon me, than anything from the mouths of all my family.
When Leonard Cohen was asked once "what's the greatest myth about fame?", he replied "That it's worthless", and this moment would seem to bear that out. The best thing about fame, when it's earned, is that the very best part of yourself lives on after your death, and you wander on through the dreams of strangers.
Robin Williams first entered my life, I would guess, around the age of 8 or 9. I remember we had some visiting Canadians come stay with us awhile, and they would quote every now and then from a funny TV show we hadn't yet seen on any of our 3 British TV channels."You haven't seen Mork & Mindy?" they said. "Oh, you'll like that". And a year or so later I found out they were right: I did.
Isn't it funny how that is all I actually remember of that couple? I've not remembered their names, their faces, anything else they said, and couldn't even a handful of years later. Their existence is entirely gone from my consciousness, other than that they foretold my encountering a man I'd never meet.
Like most 20th century television, Mork & Mindy was an assembly-line product, hurriedly written, produced and hammed up onscreen by a whoop of hacks who were not then, and never would be, good enough to make it in the movies. But Williams himself was incandescent, something entirely new, and as a child the character of the alien Mork exiled to earth lit up my imagination just as much as Superman and Star Wars had done a year or two earlier.
Every week he'd report back to his home planet 'Ork' about what he'd seen of earth, how crazy it all is here, but also how puzzlingly beautiful the best parts of us are too - the senseless acts of beauty, kindness, selflessness and mercy that raise us up above the mire and make us human at all.
Mork made him a household name around the world, but only as a clown - though a very funny one, and his Live At The Met stand-up special is still one of the top ten greatest of all time (I can still recite just about every line if you start me off, and there's an awful lot of them). But none of the attempts he made to get into films worked out the first few years of trying - the roles never seemed to quite fit him, being either too harrowingly sombre and serious to take from such a karazy comedian, or else silly, shallow, one dimensional cartoon characters (literally, in the case of Popeye).
That all finally changed with his role as army DJ Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam. Here at last was the perfect balance of crazed ebullience and deep, boundless compassion that it seems to me now was present in all his best work, all the way back to Mork, and he built on this and surpassed it effortlessly in his next and greatest role, the schoolteacher all of us wanted but never got, John Keating in Dead Poets Society.
I remember watching this film as a teenager and it speaking to me as profoundly as any film I'd ever seen. I can recall how strongly I identified with the character of Neil, the boy who'd rather take his own life than live one without a dream, being slowly smothered by a lie, and Mr Keating's explanation of poetry might well be the thing that turned my hand to such endeavours in the first place, it's certainly still the standard I judge the essence of my own and others creations against today:
Like the music I first discovered and fell in love with around the same time, Dead Poets Society showed me a window of possibilities outside of the lumpen, utilitarian working class drudgery of my youth, a world of higher ideals, nobler passions and deeper, holier truths.
It truly is one of the greatest films of all time, but in a lot of ways it simply was a better remake of GM,V, and to repeat it again presumably couldn't be done without falling into cliche - lightning had already struck twice, after all. He was never to find a role that fit him so perfectly again, although you could say he reprised it to some degree in his supporting part in Good Will Hunting.
After that peak he somehow lost the ability to be as funny as he was, maybe his schtick had grown too familiar to us for it to keep working, or maybe the weight of age and life experience made 'zany' too hard and embarrassing to pull off. Maybe he just stopped taking cocaine, I don't know. Either way, for the most part he settled into an unhappy routine of dividing his time between cloyingly sentimental family films and too-dark-for-comfort adult roles, and never seeming quite right in any of them. Seeing him interviewed in his later years on TV, he never seemed too pleased with what he'd done, or what he was doing, or for that matter who he was. He drank a lot, I am told, but what was actually going on inside him is probably impossible to say. He was as much a mystery to me as I am to you, and you are to me. The boundaries of our bodies set us apart like plots of land but, through the unfathomable voodoo we call art, the deepest and most worthy parts of ourselves proceed regardless, and go on to find and commune with one another somewhere beyond our allotted 6 feet of space and Google co-ordinates. Beyond time, beyond space, and even beyond the grave, for it is in our secrets we are most alike.
His last great film, for me, was Bobcat Goldthwait's older, sadder, wiser 'World's Greatest Dad', the kind of small, original, thoughtful, funny movie it's pretty self-evident now he should have made a lot more of in the time he had left.
But you know what? He made enough. He seized the day, he added his verse and we all read it. And people will still be reading it long after we're gone too.
Carpe Diem. O Captain, my Captain, goodbye.
Saturday, 2 August 2014
Youtube user Monica Edwards on the feminist responses to #womenagainstfeminism. Really good, concise restatement of the antifeminist position and with constructive suggestions for the 'good' feminists who want to do something about it.
As she says, "I keep hearing the same arguments over and over, and if they still aren't working, feminists need to step up their game."
As she says, "I keep hearing the same arguments over and over, and if they still aren't working, feminists need to step up their game."