Sad Cliff should speak for us all


TIME WAS when you could look for­ward to re­tire­ment – take up a hobby, travel the world, visit grand­chil­dren. Now, just think­ing about it is stress­ful, be­cause my gen­er­a­tion is so wor­ried there sim­ply won’t be enough money to sur­vive, let alone en­joy re­tire­ment.

A sur­vey, by Aviva, has found that older work­ers are in­creas­ingly down­beat about their chances of hav­ing enough money to en­joy them­selves. One in four fore­see years of strug­gle. I guess in our par­ents’ days, the state pen­sion was seen as a re­lief, pro­fes­sion­als had gen­er­ous pri­vate pen­sions and you also didn’t re­ally ex­pect decades of re­tire­ment.

We all want to live beyond 90, a prospect that’s wor­ry­ingly ex­pen­sive. We’ve watched our par­ents spend their legacy on care homes and we see our chil­dren des­per­ate that they’ll never own their own homes. I worry that the next gen­er­a­tion will con­clude that it’s too ex­pen­sive to have chil­dren at all. I pray that some clever brains are work­ing on this so­cial co­nun­drum.

DON­ALD TRUMP, af­ter vis­it­ing the firedev­as­tated city of Par­adise, was asked by a re­porter if it had changed his mind about cli­mate change. No, he said. “I want great cli­mate.” What on earth did that mean?

He even got the name of the town wrong, call­ing it Plea­sure, and had to be cor­rected by the state gov­er­nor. Em­bar­rass­ing.

So while he does noth­ing to ad­dress cli­mate change, we or­di­nary folk are be­ing en­treated to give up fly­ing for a year. Two Swedish moth­ers have started a move­ment on so­cial me­dia, ask­ing for 100,000 peo­ple to pledge not to fly for the whole of 2019. A wor­thy cause and no doubt it is right to re­mind us all that avi­a­tion emis­sions have an enor­mous im­pact on at­mos­phere. But you can’t turn the clock back. Most of us aren’t go­ing to stop fly­ing, just like we’re not go­ing to stop driv­ing.

In­stead, I be­lieve we have to look for­ward and in­vest in science to pro­vide the an­swer. Cleaner bio­fu­els, re­new­able en­ergy, maybe even one day we’ll beam from place to place as in Star Trek. Mean­while, you can al­ways use “car­bon off­set” when you fly – in­vest a ten­ner in some­thing that is ac­tively ad­dress­ing the prob­lem. Un­like the leader of the so-called Free World.

MARIA CAL­LAS is on tour again and wow­ing au­di­ences. I am so sorry I missed her – she has just done her Lon­don con­cert and is mov­ing on to the Amer­i­cas. The leg­endary so­prano has been dead 40 years but they’ve re­vived her as a holo­gram and, ap­par­ently, it’s very nearly as good as the real thing was.

The techies are al­ready work­ing on Elvis and Si­na­tra and there’s a con­cert tour ru­moured for next year by a holo­graphic Amy Wine­house.

“This must be how it felt to have re­ally seen her on stage!” some raved of the Cal­las show.

I’d loved to have seen her/it. But it gets me won­der­ing – who next? If the tech­nol­ogy is re­ally that good, would you find it com­fort­ing or spooky to have a holo­gram of your long-gone granny sit­ting in the cor­ner, read­ing her pa­per and com­ment­ing on the news? Or Charles Dick­ens read­ing bed­time sto­ries to your chil­dren?

Fifty years ago we would never have thought it pos­si­ble for me to do as I did last week – Face­time my son from the Val­ley of the Kings to him in Cam­bridge. It re­ally does make you won­der what will be the norm in 50 years... WOULD rather 10 guilty peo­ple es­cape than one in­no­cent per­son suf­fer.” Sir Cliff Richard was very brave to say it aloud, given the tsunami of knee-jerk emo­tional re­ac­tion that was bound to thun­der to­wards him. He said it from a stand­point of hav­ing been the fo­cus of a le­gal and emo­tional storm that threat­ened ev­ery­thing dear to him – his good name, re­li­gious in­tegrity, pub­lic rep­u­ta­tion and per­sonal pride. And per­haps that’s why he may not have re­alised how oth­ers might mis­un­der­stand the per­spec­tive be­hind his words.

He said it on the TV show Loose Women and he was, of course, talk­ing about his or­deal, span­ning sev­eral years, when he was very pub­licly in­ves­ti­gated over al­le­ga­tions of his­tor­i­cal child sex­ual abuse. No charges were ever brought. Ap­par­ently, an un­named man made an al­le­ga­tion in late 2013 to of­fi­cers from the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice and it snow­balled.

The first Cliff knew of it was when, watch­ing TV at his home in Por­tu­gal, he saw po­lice raid­ing his Berk­shire home, and his pri­vate life ex­posed, cour­tesy of a BBC he­li­copter, al­low­ing view­ers to watch as po­lice ri­fled through his draw­ers. Like you, I was able to see in­side Cliff’s liv­ing room. I was fas­ci­nated by the im­me­di­acy of a mega news event. I was in­trigued to see what would hap­pen next. I didn’t think that morn­ing, what if he is in­no­cent?

The in­va­sion of pri­vacy was shock­ing. But the al­le­ga­tions were worse, and the fight to clear his name and pur­sue those who had in­vaded his pri­vacy wear­ing. How do you shake off that mud which, we know, sticks? Cliff will al­ways feel a sense of in­jus­tice. And I don’t blame him. We know, too, that he is not alone. There have been oth­ers falsely hounded.

That is why the law must put pro­tec­tion of the in­no­cent ahead of pros­e­cu­tion of the guilty. Cliff ’s face was etched with lines only pain and stress pro­duce. The suf­fer­ing of be­ing falsely ac­cused clearly leaves its mark. He looked gaunt and sad­dened.

WHAT he said, to a sym­pa­thetic stu­dio au­di­ence and an out­raged Twit­ter crowd, was a his­toric quote. It’s a be­drock of en­light­ened le­gal sys­tems that all of us are in­no­cent un­til proven guilty. And that it is a heinous in­jus­tice to be ac­cused of and even con­victed for some­thing you didn’t do, to the ex­tent that it is bet­ter if some guilty peo­ple go free rather than the in­no­cent be wrongly pun­ished.

One tweet stated: “I’m not a fan of Cliff Richard but he’s turned my stom­ach say­ing that 10 guilty men should go free to save one who’s in­no­cent. Ab­so­lute dis­grace.”

An­other: “The vic­tims of abuse, as­sault and rape de­serve more.” And: “Cliff Richard just said one of the stu­pid­est and most of­fen­sive things I’ve ever heard on tele­vi­sion.”

It was 18th-cen­tury judge William Black­stone who put it at 10 to one. It be­came known as Black­stone’s ra­tio: bet­ter that 10 guilty go free rather than one in­no­cent be re­viled, pun­ished or even ex­e­cuted. Ben­jamin Franklin, a found­ing father of the United States, said, “It is bet­ter 100 guilty per­sons should es­cape than that one in­no­cent per­son should suf­fer.”

De­fend­ing Bri­tish sol­diers charged with mur­der in the Bos­ton Mas­sacre, John Adams, the fu­ture US pres­i­dent, said: “It is more im­por­tant that in­no­cence should be pro­tected, than it is that guilt be pun­ished.” Law stu­dents are still taught this. That’s why at­tor­neys think it im­por­tant to de­fend those ac­cused of even the worst crimes: be­cause ev­ery­one is en­ti­tled to a proper de­fence. The scales of jus­tice are oth­er­wise im­bal­anced.

Hard though it is, es­pe­cially when think­ing of child sex­ual abuse, you have to ask what so­ci­ety would you rather live in? In au­thor­i­tar­ian regimes, his­tory has shown they be­lieve the op­po­site. Bis­marck said: “It is bet­ter that 10 in­no­cent men suf­fer than one guilty man es­cape.” Pol Pot made sim­i­lar re­marks. So it wasn’t Cliff ’s idea: he was quot­ing Black­stone’s ra­tio. Peo­ple say he’d no right to say it. He was “in­con­ve­nienced” by a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion that fiz­zled out. OK, his pri­vacy was in­vaded, his name tar­nished, his rep­u­ta­tion per­haps shot for ever. How does that com­pare, some said, to let­ting a sex of­fender or a child abuser go free? That’s not the point.

To harass and con­vict the wrong per­son doesn’t help any­one ei­ther. The law isn’t per­fect. And nei­ther is Black­stone’s ra­tio.

In the pros­e­cu­tion of “his­tor­i­cal” al­le­ga­tions, we can all see how the law some­times falls short. There is cer­tainly a need to im­prove and up­date the way we try to catch the bad guys. But Cliff gave a gen­uinely held be­lief founded in law and jus­tice. It was hard for some to hear but it was surely worth say­ing.


CON­TRO­VER­SIAL:Sir Cliff spoke out af­ter years of an­guish

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