The concept of justice in much of the Civilised Western World of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is clearly no more a guarantee than is the answer to ‘how long is a piece of string?’ Two egregious cases make the point. Let’s look firstly to that noble chap, Prince Andrew. Here’s a headline from the Telegraph today: ‘Prince Andrew: Cutting ties with Royal family only choice for man already found guilty in court of public opinion.’ The Queen it seems has stripped him of his military titles and dumped his ‘Royal Highness’ moniker. This then would be in tune with public opinion. Now the people of York, including their MP want him stripped of his title ‘Duke of York.’ They could probably have requested that a long time ago purely on the basis that Andrew Windsor is a bit of a jerk, but anyway it’s now trending. All this must be having a bit of an effect on somebody who hasn’t actually been found guilty of anything (not to mention Sarah, the Duchess of York who presumably would lose her bit of ribbon should he lose his). Of course, Mr Windsor may well be guilty, but isn’t that for a court to decide? Or perhaps the Queen knows something we don’t. It looks a bit late for him now in any case, as the Telegraph says, he’s been found guilty in the court of public opinion.
The second case which should shatter our faith in the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is that of Julian Assange. He’s served a prison incarceration of nearly three years without being found guilty of anything — three years in the harsh conditions of Belmarsh jail. The case against him, heavily based on what a self-confessed liar had to say, drags on. But our courts seem oblivious to the punishment already meted out to him. Perhaps one could argue that for a commoner and a royal to find themselves in not dissimilar circumstances demonstrates how fair everything is, although of course Mr Windsor is not sat in Belmarsh awaiting further extradition hearings, but languishes somewhere in Great Windsor Park living off his £20,000 p.a. Navy pension (plus the £250,000 p.a. he gets off the Queen laughingly described in the press as a ‘top-up to his pension’).
Thanks to austerity (and Covid) there are countless others waiting on remand for their day in court. I know that Mr Windsor’s team is doing their best not to have him have his day in court, but for most there is no choice. And in the case of Julian Assange, and for those whose collars may be felt as a result of Pritti Patel’s proposed draconian new laws on protest may face, the phrase ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ will take on ever more sinister connotations. In this last context it is pleasing to see juries acquitting protesters (e.g. the Colston Four or today three Extinction Rebellion road blockers). Getting rid of juries will be Pritti’s next job. Summary justice is around the corner, even without a guilty verdict.
I should add: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Andrew Windsor is guilty, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Julian Assange is merely a political prisoner, but it seems that in both cases a fair trial is now out of the question.