Friday, 3 February 2012

Innocent Until Proven Guilty - Chris Huhne & John Terry

I know it's a rather boring thing to believe, particularly when you read a lot of the newspapers nowadays, but I still hold onto that most basic tenet on which our judicial system is built - that you are innocent until proven guilty.

It is a particularly apt moment to re-consider this in light of two high-profile cases this week. People who frequent sites like may have a special interest in these cases.

Chris Huhne
Chris Huhne's decision today to stand down from the Cabinet to fight his case is a sensible one. He pleads innocence on the charges of perjury and if he is to fight his battle for that truth then he is right to do so without the weight of Cabinet responsibility on his shoulders.

It will mean a minor Cabinet reshuffle which will we are told likely bring Ed Davey MP into the Cabinet. He will have a tough task as Chris Huhne proved to be an effective Cabinet Member on Climate Change. Huhne's future now of course depends on that court case. The course of British Justice will take its course and we will have to take it from there. In the meantime, he remains the Member of Parliament for Eastleigh.

John Terry
The case of England's football captain is a slightly different matter. He too will face his day in court in July having pleaded not guilty to charges of racism against Anton Ferdinand.

The big question was whether he should (a) remain England Captain and (b) remain a squad member going into the Euro '12 Finals which will conclude a week before his judicial appearance.

Well, he is of course innocent until proven guilty as I say and I therefore see no reason why he should be excluded from the English team. If Fabio Capello believes him to be central to the English set-up, then he should go to the finals.

But should he remain as the England Captain? I have to say no. Considering his previous history having been stripped of the English Captaincy after his affair with the wife of a colleague, his position was precarious. As the moral leader of his nation's footballing hopes, it was not appropriate that he hold that position at this time. It is therefore in mind to the FA's rare credit that they have this morning formally announced that Terry will not captain the team going into the summer.

The difference here is that Huhne rightly fell on his sword whilst Terry failed to make the same call and found the decision made for him.

Time will tell how the judicial system will treat them both in the months to come but it would seem to me at this moment that the one has dealt with the situation in such trying circumstances with more dignity than the other.


  1. I facebooked yesterday that as an Englishman, I was disgusted that the court case for John Terry was to be held after the Euro 2012 Championship.

    It looked like the court case diary was slotting around John Terry's diary, rather than the demands of the Justice system and the courts.

    I am therefore glad that John Terry has been stripped of his captaincy.

    Had he hoped that he was safe for 6 months, he got that wrong.

    Had the case gone to court in March/April, as it probably would have, if it had been you or me, he would still probably be captain at Euro 2012, if he had been cleared by the justice system.

    England can now get on and concentrate on the football, rather than the circus that would have surrounded their campaign if John Terry was still captain. No doubt JT will be wishing that the court case had been settled, sooner rather than later.

  2. Guilt is proven to a test of "beyond reasonable doubt". That is (rightly) a high test.

    However it does leave open the possiblility that someone has acted wrongly when judged by different standards. This can happen in the courts where someone is found to be liable in civil hearings for something they were acquitted of in criminal proceedings. And that party also has standards which members - particularly elected ones - are expected to uphold.

    When it comes to (a) matters of honesty with regard to the law or (b) racism on the football field you would expect Lib Dem MPs and England captains to be held to a higher standard than "can't be found guilty of a criminal offence over this".

    That is an approach we have adopted as a party with regard to election fraud and postal/proxy vote fiddling (several people have been expelled from the party in cases where no criminal action was brought).

    None of which changes that maxim as regards the criminal law (or indeed breach of any non-legal provisions) but it isn't quite as cut and dried.

    @Andrew - one reason for the delay is to have the court case away from the football season when it is simpler for all the likely witnesses to be available without commitments regarding other matches. It isn't unheard of for cases to be scheduled for the convenience of either witnesses or (less often) defendants where it doesn't interfere with the interests of justice.

    Better to set a later date when people will all be available than a shorter date which you then need to cancel.

  3. The only reason Huhne would have to leave the cabinet and spend some time 'fighting' to prove his innoncence would be if he were actually guilty as charged and having to spend a lot of time trying to come up with some believable explanations (and practice his lines against what will be a probing cross-examination) as to why the obviously compelling evidence against him is wrong.

    If he were innocent, then there isn't going to be any direct evidence against him (a spurned wife's word certainly will NOT count!), and all he has to do is turn up at court on the day, say it wasn't him, and then get cleared as there is no evidence.

    His actions so far have already betrayed him.