Only legal process can confirm guilt or innocence

Noel Clarke – innocent until proved guilty

There is a fine piece of writing in the “Sunday Times” today by Matthew Syed which gets to the heart of our collective floundering around when public figures, Film Director Noel Clarke in this case, are seen to overstep the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. The start here was, as Syed says, fine investigative journalism in “The Guardian”. Surely the correct response to this was not for BAFTA to judge but to pause – to suspend Clarke pending further enquiries ?

We do have laws which protect citizens from harassment. We have due processes which are followed when there are allegations of unlawful behaviour. If the police and the CPS investigate this matter and conclude that that law should take its course then a trial would follow. And should Clarke be found guilty that would be the time for BAFTA to act. And if the CPS decides there is insufficient evidence to prosecute ? Then BAFTA should withdraw their suspension.

The problem here and in other cases is the court of public opinion which runs parallel to the real judicial processes. Last year an MP was effectively suspended because of allegations of sexual harassment, and worse. He was not named but it wasn’t hard to discover who he was. The Police/CPS dropped the case and the MP has returned to public life. But he is in limbo to some extent. No case to answer is presumably what the CPS concluded.

Innocent until proven guilty lies at the cornerstone of our judicial system. In both the cases I mention here there has been neither trial nor verdict. Journalism may dig up evidence, but it is not Judge and Jury. And Twitter is not a court of law.

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