Contempt of Caught? How the ICC upheld the Rule of Law
Sunday, 20th February 2011 2 Comments
Two of my main passions collided last week in the latest instalment of the cricket “spot-fixing” scandal (the background to which is summarised brilliantly by cricket website ESPN Cricinfo), and it was pleasing to see the cricketing establishment being so respectful of the English legal system. The International Cricket Council (as opposed to the International Criminal Court) took a decision to ban the three Pakistani cricketers involved in the scandal for what is, once suspended bans have been taken into account, a period of 5 years each. However, it was the ICC’s decision to only publish an edited version of its spot-fixing ruling and making even that edited version “unavailable to readers in England and Wales” for fear of influencing the case which will be coming to the UK courts in March this year that was so impressive.
The ICC’s exercise of caution is excellent news in the wake of the media reporting of the Joanna Yeates murder case, which led to thousands of tweets about a suspect who was portrayed in many newspapers as being guilty by virtue of not being what fits into their definition of “normal”.
The Guardian sought to talk about whether the coverage of the Yeates case was rendering the Contempt of Court Act 1981 “threadbare” and “in disarray”. It is reassuring, therefore, to see that when the CPS is proactive in its protection of the justice system, as it was in this instance, that the public and the organisations who are affected will respond.
The CPS’ charging statement contained the following:
“I would remind everyone that these men are entitled to a fair trial and should be regarded as innocent of these charges unless it is proven otherwise in court. The International Cricket Council tribunal is due to announce its decision tomorrow, but criminal proceedings are active now.
“It is extremely important that nothing should be reported which could prejudice the trial.”
(Source: CPS blog)
This will not be a long post because, amongst other reasons, I won’t comment on the case itself and thereby contravene the very direction that I am commending the ICC for adhering to.
However, what I will say is that I am pleased that in, the wake of the “trial by [mainstream and social] media” that occurred in the Yeates case, the English legal system’s principles are being upheld once more.
Of course people will have opinions on these three cricketers (and the agent who was the subject of the News of the World sting operation), and will air them privately to each other and may even broadcast them publicly via the internet. But they must express them in such a way that it cannot influence the outcome of a case which has yet to come to trial. The CPS is doing the right thing in setting this example. The ICC has done the right thing in responding accordingly.
As an aside, I wonder if this article by Roy Greenslade, about the overturn of convictions secured after so-called “Fake Sheikh” sting operations run by the News of the World, is relevant to the Amir/Butt/Asif/Majheed case. I am unfamiliar with the rules pertaining to these kind of attempts to draw out incriminating conduct, and would be interested to know if convicting these men is likely to be impossible even before the trial has begun simply on account of the methods used to obtain evidence.