Last month a Saudi millionaire property developer, aged 46, was cleared of raping a teenager by Southwark Crown Court. He claimed in court that he ‘fell on top of her’ after having sex upstairs with someone else, and that that is how his semen got inside the victim of the alleged assault.
Forgive me for finding this defence preposterous. It makes me very nervous about our legal system. Is it in safe hands? The case of Oscar Pistorius, who somehow got away with murder, literally, after shooting his girlfriend several times through a bathroom door at point blank range, springs to mind. The mind boggles. How can this be! We reach a point of danger when we lose faith in our judicial system. Pistorius has been subsequently convicted of murder in a retrial, although he is appealing that verdict. Good for South Africa. Must we examine our own system a little more carefully too?
The news story about the acquittal of Ehsan Abdulaziz flags up many questions in my mind, not least to do with Saudi property millionaires. ‘Thank you, sir, for bringing your money and expertise into this country and for helping the British solve their housing crisis’ is the only way I can think of expressing my doubts without jeopardising myself. Finally, I am beginning to understand the British love of irony. I rest my case!
We are quick to judge the refugees, human beings displaced from war torn countries. We want to stiffen penalties for their alleged crimes. For even the whiff of a crime they should be deported, we say, take away the chance of a new life, take away food and accommodation and the safety of their children. While for the more privileged we seem to be able to compromise on the principle of a fair and impartial system of justice. There is an uncomfortable feeling I have that the wealth of the individual has something to do with the likelihood of his acquittal.
Today, a short time after being recognised on the Queen’s honours list, Lin Homer, chief exec of HMRC, resigned from office. Less than a year ago she came under fierce criticism for actively promoting a little-known agreement known as the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility under which, in return for immunity from criminal prosecution, HSBC Swiss bank account holders , who had criminally and intentionally hidden bank accounts in order to evade tax, could settle for a mere 10% fine, rather than the usual 200%. Call me a purist but I fail to understand how this can be seen as fair and impartial treatment under the law.
These disparate examples so often fly under the radar. It starts to look as if Lin Homer was made a Dame for helping the Conservative Party assist its crony donors in escaping from the full force of the law. It was certainly not for HMRC’s customer service record, which is notoriously appalling. Call me old-fashioned but I find all this very disturbing.
Then there is the Chilcot enquiry into Tony Blair’s misleading of parliament. The government and the public may well have been deliberately deceived into agreeing to back a campaign of bombing, maiming and killing of others, a campaign that in all probability only further endangered the safety and security of our nation as well as disrupting the lives and the national security of many others. The public was informed that within a year we would have a report on whether parliament had been deliberately lied to. Seven years later we are still waiting for an answer.
At every level we should be very concerned. It seems to me these are not isolated cases. A thread of expediency and self-interest goes through them. Without a credible system of justice we are living at the grace and favour of secretive, tyrannical powers. We need to think carefully about what kind of governance we have and about whether our legal system is in safe hands, and if we don’t like what we see we need to fight to change it. It seems to me that we are way past the eleventh hour.