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