Safeguarding & the presumption of innocence. Welby, Machiavelli and George Bell

Jan 31, 2019 by

by Gavin Ashenden:

There was something truly shocking about the police leaking the news of their raid on Cliff Richard’s house to the BBC, who then made sure a helicopter was in the sky filming their break in. The presumption of innocence until proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt is such an important part of our culture. It is a key element in protecting the individual and the standards of public truth.

It protects me; it protects you; it was supposed to protect Cliff Richard. He wrote

“I fear I will forever be tainted by the lurid and intrusive coverage I received. I have had to bring civil proceedings to obtain redress for these appalling invasions of my privacy by the police and the BBC. But that can never undo all the damage I have suffered. It would have been so much better never to have been in this position at all.”

He wasn’t the only one to suffer from the irresponsibility of people who didn’t understand how important the principle was.

It happened also, to Lord Britten, who was alive at the time, and posthumously to Edward Heath. There is a justification, but it is a dangerous one. The reason is that by publicising an arrest evidence can be gathered to convict criminals. I’m sure that is true. But it is also an insidious example of the dangerous idea that the end justify the means.

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