Sunday, April 09, 2006

30 years Ago... Young Liberal Cleared Of Robbery

Today is the 30th anniversary of a Young Liberal anti-apartheid activist being cleared of bank robbery, after a dubious prosecution was levelled against him. The case was based entirely on the evidence of three schoolboys and a cashier, who thought they recognised him as the man responsible. The man concerned later wrote about "The Putney Plot". He would do well, on the 30th anniversary, to reflect on one lesson that it flags up.

In public debate on terrorism, there is a massive tendency to conflate suspicion with guilt. The rights of suspects to a fair trial and due process are regularly decried as "more than they'd give us". While I don't think I've ever caught a Government minister saying taht explicitly, there is a climate of fear which seems to justify treating terrorist suspects as convicted criminals, simply because the nature of the crime they're accused of is so terrible. The government's policy of detention without trial is implicitly based on this assumption, and measures such as the withdrawal of trial-by-jury appear to mesh with it.

Peter Hain (for it is he) should know better.