Wouldn’t it be nice if, just occasionally, the powers that be could put their collective hands up and say sorry?
Oh. I know. In English law, saying sorry is as good as admitting your guilt. So no comment: stonewall; say nothing of any consequence. No matter whether you’ve wrecked someone’s health by being a bit of a gung ho scalpel-happy surgeon.
Or you’ve turned someone’s life to shit by dragging their name through the legal mud – and then saying not a word of apology.
I deal with nasty people. Police, politicians, lawyers…and criminals. The standing joke, round the dinner table, is always: how can i tell which is which.
Truth is, i can’t. I have spoken to individuals who are either innocent as driven snow, fitted up by a bunch of vindictive coppers: or evil as the darkest night. And you know: i haven’t the faintest.
Maybe, once upon a time, i harboured some lily-livered liberal inkling that i could tell. Somehow. By instinct. But i can’t. Nor can most of the rest of the world, reading snippets of a tale from the extracts that the newspapers choose to hand-feed us.
What i do see – that most of the rest don’t – is how those in authority chose to respond when they are caught out. Over the last year, i have covered umpteen stories of police pushing the limits when it comes to interrogating photographers.
Often, the police action has been at the edges of what is legal. A week or so back, one police officer appears to have been involved in an incident which involved bullying, intimidation and just perhaps, at the end, an action that amounted to theft of a civilian’s camera.
What did the police have to say for themselves, officially? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. An anodyne press response, admitting the search and politely ignoring any questions about the legality of what went down.
And now, from the Mail of all places, this sorry tale of a rape trial abandoned.
The judge appears not to have been impressed. As the trial dissolved in acrimony, he said: “The evidence did not, and was never going to, prove rape. The prime overriding consideration in the CPS’s decision had been merely that the complainant wished the case to go ahead.
“It was little short of a craven abdication of responsibility for making an independent and fair-minded assessment of the case.
And what did the CPS have to say for themselves? Naheed Hussain, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS South Yorkshire, defended the decision to bring the case but said a review would take place “to see if any lessons can be learned”.
He added: “The decision to prosecute was taken by a senior lawyer. We were satisfied there was sufficient evidence not only from the complainant but from another witness whose evidence supported that of the complainant.”
Oh weasel worthless words!
I rarely know the truth of matters, who’s lying, who’s not. But i do see the result of over-bearing authority: the sheer terror, despair and depression that settles on those caught up in this sort of mess.
Because this is not the first time the CPS have got it wrong – pursuing to the bitter end a case until the very moment it turns out to be nothing but hot air – and each time, they excuse themselves with verbiage that is no excuse at all. Just a wriggling, every bit as contemptible as the wriggling of the crims they are meant to be pursuing.
By all means, CPS, go for the wrong-doers. But don’t let bureaucratic process get in the way of doing what is right.
And if you do make a mistake, have the goodness of heart to own to it, instead of playing schoolboy word games with the world media.