Wednesday 24 April 2024

Conviction Politics

What would be the correct conviction rate for rape, and why? The Crown, which is the State, brings the prosecution, so Ministers of the Crown always have a target conviction rate of 100 per cent for everything. The Chief Prosecutor in Scotland, the Lord Advocate, is a member of the Cabinet, a practising politician.

But that is why guilt and innocence are not determined by single, salaried employees of the State; where they are, as in the case of English and Welsh District Judges, previously Stipendiary Magistrates, then they should not be. What do practitioners in other Roman law jurisdictions make of the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill, and which other countries would extradite to such a regime? Any firm of criminal defence solicitors that accepted instruction in a trial pursuant to that legislation would be accepting the principle of rigging the process so as to make acquittal practically impossible. Who would want to be defended by someone like that?

Yet simply by having delivered a drastic increase in the conviction rate, this measure will be declared a success, leading any Sunakite or Starmerite Government to introduce it throughout the United Kingdom. Alba could never call for any section 35 order without disappearing up its own fundamental principles, but there are four Liberal Democrat MPs for constituencies in Scotland.

Behind this is a report by Lady Dorian, who was commissioned by Nicola Sturgeon, having been the judge in the trial of Alex Salmond. But riddle me this. It is illegal in Scotland, as it is in England, to ask a former juror anything about the trial in which he or she participated. How, then, can Lady Dorian or anyone else know that Scottish, or English, jurors were influenced by rape myths? Whatever happened to the one of Salmond's accusers who claimed to have been raped by him on a date when she was provably not there, and who then organised a WhatsApp group for everyone to get their stories straight?

The Salmond case also lies behind the abolition of the verdict of not proven. There are heavyweight arguments on either side of that one, but they have nothing to do with this. This is because one of the verdicts on Salmond was of not proven. The existence of the not proven verdict has never obliged any jury to use it. On either side of the Border, if the jury were not unanimously convinced beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused, then it ought to deliver a verdict of not guilty, which ought to be an enduring verdict, affording lifelong protection from double jeopardy.

Yet if England ever was that country for most people, then it is certainly not now. I myself was convicted after a judge had specifically instructed a jury to "disregard" the concept of conviction beyond reasonable doubt, and then imprisoned because my enemies had been politically well enough connected to have me charged with an offence to which there was no defence, so that all that mattered was to be well enough in with the highly politicised Crown Prosecution Service.

A few hours ago, Maggie Oliver told viewers of ITV1 that in 1999, Gary Glitter had been acquitted of sex with a 14-year-old girl because the judge would have instructed the jurors that they had to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt. Paul Gadd had more rights a quarter of a century ago than I had in 2020. I shall never stop pointing out that I was explicitly not convicted beyond reasonable doubt. Peter Hitchens told me that he had heard of at least one other such case that week. This has become the norm, even before a former Director of Public Prosecutions became Prime Minister. Or, at least, it has become the norm for the kind of defendant that might tell Hitchens about it.

But when I tell you that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair's Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Keir Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

I have no plan to join the Workers Party of Britain, although nor would I expect to stand against it. If, however, it did not contest North Durham, then I would. To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not. We have made a start.


  1. The Salmond case still defines Scottish politics.

    1. But the Murrell case is coming up. Yes, there is a connection. But things do move on. After a fashion.

  2. Why isn't this getting far more attention?

    1. No one is more pro-independence than Alba, which is opposed to this Bill, so that is a very good question.