Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence? Horace Rumpole’s ‘golden thread which runs through British justice’ has been turned on its head time and again in recent years.
Latest high-profile victim is ex-England cricket captain Michael Vaughan, who finds himself cast into the outer darkness over an unproven accusation of racism.
Both the BBC and BT Sport yesterday dropped Vaughan from their coverage of this winter’s Ashes series in Australia. His Radio Five show with Phil Tufnell had already been pulled.
The BBC cited ‘editorial reasons’ for sacking Vaughan from the Test Match Special team.
Both the BBC and BT Sport yesterday dropped Vaughan from their coverage of this winter’s Ashes series in Australia
BT Sport had been planning to use commentary from Australia’s Fox network. But because the Fox line-up includes Vaughan, BT now says it will make alternative arrangements unless he is dumped.
The broadcasters’ craven rush to distance themselves from Vaughan comes in the wake of tearful testimony to a Commons select committee from former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq.
Clearly, cricket has a serious problem with antediluvian attitudes towards race, not just in certain dressing rooms but at the highest level.
Heads have already rolled and an official inquiry is under way. That, though, is no excuse for a Jimmy Savile-style witch-hunt against individuals accused on little more than hearsay.
The allegation against Vaughan is that, when he was captain of Yorkshire in 2009, he told a group of Asian players: ‘There’s too many of you lot, we need to do something.’
Some team-mates support Rafiq’s claims, others don’t. None of us were there, so we can’t possibly know what was said, or in what context.
Vaughan may be a paid-up member of the BNP, although I doubt it. After Rafiq’s testimony, I heard Monty Panesar, an England cricketer of Punjabi heritage, lavishing praise on Vaughan’s man-management skills and telling LBC radio that he didn’t believe his ex- captain was a racist.
The broadcasters’ craven rush to distance themselves from Vaughan comes in the wake of tearful testimony to a Commons select committee from former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq
Whatever the truth, the allegations against him fall at the lower end of the scale. It’s not as if he was in the habit of taking to the field wearing a white hood and planting a burning cross at silly mid-on.
Vaughan categorically refutes Rafiq’s version of events. Yet he has been denied due process.
We’re back in ‘always believe the victim’ territory here.
Vaughan’s character and career are being annihilated by ‘evidence’ which would be challenged as inadmissible in a court of law. Even murderers and rapists are entitled to a proper defence.
The single ‘racist’ remark he is alleged to have made dates back 12 years. And as Her Maj said in different circumstances recently: Recollections may vary.
You might have thought that Vaughan, a distinguished former England captain who won the Ashes in 2005, would at least be afforded the benefit of a fair hearing. We have, of course, been down this treacherous road before.
Have no lessons been learned from the disgraceful Operation Yewtree and Operation Midland blitzkriegs into ‘historic’ sex crimes, which ruined the lives of innocent men and their families?
Did no one at the BBC reflect on the injustice heaped upon the blameless Paul Gambaccini and Tony Blackburn during the post-Jimmy Savile panic?
Apparently not. When it comes to accusations of racism or sexual misconduct, the usual rules no longer apply. Ducking stool justice is the order of the day, purely to appease the anonymous burning-torch mob on Twitter.
No presumption of innocence for Vaughan. Chuck him on the bonfire. But there’s a problem with Rumpole’s golden thread. Once you pull on it, things begin to unravel, as Rafiq himself quickly discovered.
Shortly after his testimony to MPs, it was revealed that he wasn’t entirely without sin, either.
The Times uncovered anti-Semitic messages he had posted to a fellow cricketer on Facebook in 2011. To his credit, he apologised profusely and his supporters insisted that his disparaging remarks about Jews shouldn’t detract from the validity of his evidence about widespread racism in cricket.
True, but it does illustrate the perils of judging a man on an unwise, unsavoury, unguarded comment made in the dim and distant past.
Pity such leniency hasn’t been extended to Michael Vaughan.
The self-proclaimed anti-racists demanding that Vaughan should be ‘cancelled’ for ever could do worse than take notice of the measured reaction of Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
She acknowledged that Rafiq now understood the hurt he had caused and said: ‘His apology certainly seems heartfelt and we have no reason to believe he is not completely sincere.’
Thank goodness for at least one grown-up in the room. Unlike the usual social media lynch mob’s reaction to their quarry, she didn’t demand that Rafiq should become a pariah and lose his livelihood in perpetuity.
People do and say stupid things, especially when they are young. A belief in forgiveness and redemption is the foundation of any civilised society.
We already have a Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, which effectively erases previous convictions, depending on their severity, after a given period of time.
In the interests of bringing peace to Northern Ireland, the government issued ‘comfort letters’ guaranteeing that hundreds of on-the-run terrorists would not be prosecuted.
If Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were able to put the past behind them and sit in government, Michael Vaughan can remain part of the Test Match Special team, his reputation intact.
Especially as the charge against him is unsubstantiated and hasn’t been tested in court.
If Vaughan was still playing and had been given out LBW, he would at least be entitled to appeal to Hawk-Eye and the Third Umpire.
So he should equally have been given an opportunity to mount a proper defence before sentence was pronounced and he was carted off to a place of execution.
Scouring the past for ‘historic’ outrage is tearing society apart. It’s time we declared an amnesty and remembered that ‘golden thread’.
Innocent until proven guilty.
Thumbs up, three sombreros to Red Wall Tory MP Scott Benton, who asked Labour show-off Stella Creasy what made her ‘so special’ she thought she could bring her baybee into the Commons chamber.
Women in his Blackpool South constituency earn less than a third of her salary, yet still manage to make child-care arrangements.
Precisely. Where would it end if every MP brought their offspring to work? What if some Hon Member’s Kevin the Teenager had been excluded from school? Could he lollop on the green benches, playing Grand Theft Auto on his iPad?
Why not, given that MPs seem to spend most of their time in the chamber tapping away on their mobiles.
Carrie would soon dump Wilf on Boris for the day while she busied herself saving lobsters from torture. The Commons would resemble one of those ghastly suburban pubs which let screaming kids run around the bar, knocking over pints and padding pizza everywhere.
Mind you, having watched the past couple of unruly PMQs, a few dozen snot-nosed kids mewling and puking and crawling all over the despatch box might actually raise the tone of the place.
Westminster is consumed by the Dishi Rishi rift with Number 10 and the hunt for the ‘Chatty Pig’. Is anyone outside the North Circular, let alone the M25, taking any notice? Most people in the Red Wall think the Chatty Pig is a transport caff on the A57 outside Worksop. Treble bacon banjos all round!
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has complained that clergy on TV are always portrayed as rogues or idiots.
This would be the same Justin Welby who recently compared climate change to the Holocaust, stuck up for Meghan Markle, failed to alert police to a paedophile priest and moved Heaven and Earth to Stop Brexit.
So which one are you, Bish: rogue or idiot?
Love in a warm climate
Melting ice caps, tsunamis, plagues of boils. You name it, someone will blame it on climate change. But until now, nobody suspected that rising temperatures were causing rising divorce rates between — wait for it — albatrosses. That’s according to a study by scientists from the University of Lisbon.
You couldn’t make it up. Who knew albatrosses got married? Apparently warmer waters put them right off mating. No one appears to have told the contestants on Love Island.
In the wake of Cop26, Wee Burney is embracing the green agenda to boost her plummeting approval ratings. Judging by this picture, she’s already joined Extinction Rebellion.
How long before she glues herself to Glasgow’s Kingston Bridge in support of Insulate Britain?