Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Ched and Oscar - contrasting justice systems

My local free paper finally has a story it can get his teeth into – the ongoing saga of Ched Evans the Rhyl-based footballer convicted of rape.  The paper – The Journal – is in a quandary because it is being forced to report the story even-evenhandedly (for a change).  Usually it simply quotes verbatim the acid comments of some crusty old judge as he sentences another victim to several years in the pokey.

Because of the fuss being made by Sheffield United fans and Ched’s family, friends and supporters and the enquiry by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, it has become necessary to tell both sides of this story with a degree of accuracy and less sensationalism.

In my last post I compared the Ched Evans case with that of Oscar Pistorius.  Since then, Oscar has been sentenced to a five years prison sentence, though, apparently, only 10 months is likely actually to be spent in prison.

It is worth comparing and contrasting these cases.  In one, the accused denied the allegation, there was no evidence but he was convicted and sentenced to five years, two-and-a-half years spent in prison.  In the second, the accused admitted he killed a woman, was sentenced to five years but will only serve 10 months in prison.

The British have been accused (by an ex-prison governor) of being a nation of ‘incarcerholics’; the judges and juries get their rocks off by imprisoning people.  Apart from the somewhat unpleasant tendency of the British public to wish others ill, it is worth examining the role of the judges in cases where juries are asked to make a determination when there is little or no hard evidence available.

We are slipping into a situation where the legal profession is inclined to give undue weight to inference and supposition over hard fact.  Furthermore, judges are becoming the ‘spin doctors’ of the justice system, tailoring their summing up to the likelihood that it might be included as a sound bite on the evening’s news.

It should be remembered that juries, those 12 men and women dragged off the street, are amateurs and are too easily swayed by what a malevolent old judge might say.  There is no freedom of speech in a courtroom.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Protocol, the judge and the barristers control everything.  Frequently, for the convenience of the system, more is left unsaid than is said.  Worse still, the prosecution, the judge and the police control access to what evidence there may be.

In the end, the job of the judge is to act as upholder of the system (not protector of the accused) and if the system is flawed, as the criminal justice system undoubtedly is, that means covering up those flaws and ‘bigging-up’ that system.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the members of jury were not present at the scene of the crime (if indeed there was a crime).  Unfortunately, in this country the population is so accustomed to bowing and scraping to royalty, the aristocracy and power in general, that they do not have the gumption to make up their own minds.  It is, therefore, all too easy for an experienced judge to lead a gullible, servile and under-educated bunch of jurors by their collective noses.

Ched Evans may be a rat.  Who knows?  It should be remembered, however, that he is only a ‘criminal’ because a bunch of people who know little or nothing have had their prejudices gold-plated by the summing up of judge whose duty it is to add gravitas to prejudice.

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