The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

When Partisanship Goes Too Far

Posted by The Futility Monster on October 1, 2009 @ 07:01

I enjoy indulging in political tittle-tattle as much as the next person, especially if it involves members of opposition parties. But, at the same time, I know I shouldn’t – primarily because us Lib Dems are no saints either.

But sometimes, a line is crossed… and this particular one has caused me to re-evaluate my position.

In April 2008, Mark Pack, posting on Lib Dem Voice, added a footnote to this post which read:

UPDATE: Meanwhile, in Liverpool a Labour councillor (Ben Williams) has been charged with downloading indecent pictures of children from the internet.

When I read it, I had to take a moment to recompose myself.

Cllr Ben Williams was my former politics tutor at sixth form college.

I then read the BBC News story that Mark linked to. Sheer disbelief. My initial reaction was that this story can’t possibly be true. The man was a great teacher, an inspiration to me, and was a really nice person. He even had his own family. The story just felt wrong to me, and I commented as such on the LDV article on May 1.

Many months later, there was a trial.

In the end, the jury were unable to reach a verdict. Sadly, this isn’t quite a “not guilty”… and so the CPS pressed for a retrial. The anguish for Mr Williams was therefore set to drag on for another year.

The retrial has just finished. And the result?

Ex-Southport and Bootle teacher Ben Williams cleared of child porn charges

Though the jury were again unable to reach a verdict, this time the judge ordered that such a response would equal a not guilty verdict. And so it should. The case against him was weak, and I fully believe the defence he mounted. He is of the highest integrity and character, and didn’t deserve to go through such a horrendous experience.

The problem now is that his reputation is tarnished forever, no matter what the judge has ruled. His CRB Enhanced Disclosure will be filled with all of these allegations and details of the trial, even though he has never been found guilty of an offence. Yet another reason why I am suspicious of the policies behind the CRB

But that doesn’t stop the old “no smoke without fire” old wives tale. No one can possibly imagine the devastating effect of losing nearly two  years of your life to defend yourself against such, nor the ongoing trauma of such an ordeal… never mind the long term consequences of reputational damage.

And this is what’s made me so uneasy. I’m not picking on Mark Pack, because, like I said in the opening, most of us are guilty of taking a bit too much glee in reading about when our rivals up to no good.

But behind all of these stories is a real person, someone who is undoubtedly suffering as a consequence. And, as in this case, many of them are not guilty of the charge they have to bear.

The lesson for me is a stark reminder…

We must cling dearly to our well-worn liberal principle of “innocent until proven guilty”.

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3 Responses to “When Partisanship Goes Too Far”

  1. Mark Pack said

    I must admit I had missed the acquittal, but now you’ve mentioned it I will update the previous post. Pretty small beer in compared to the overall hurt and damage for someone who is tried but is innocent, but at least if someone finds that comment of mine in future they’ll know the final outcome.

  2. BW said

    Eddie,

    If these are your comments then your kindness and empathy is greatly appreciated. I am picking up the pieces and moving on.

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