Judgement on the Balance of Prejudice in a "kangaroo court". Is it legal?
And if legal, is it decent?
Peter Burns, choleric leader of the ruling Tory group on Macclesfield Borough Council, is waging a "vindictive campaign" against Cllr. Brendan Murphy, the one and only independent member of the council.
Who says so? Mike Flynn, leader of Macclesfield's Lib-Dems, according to an article in the Macclesfield Express (2004/04/27).
The article goes on to explain that Cllr. Burns is waging his war while sheltering behind Cllr. George Marshall, a "bag carrier" whom he uses to make frivolous complaints about his enemies to the Standards Board for England, which is a "policing body" for local councillors.
|Headline for the story by Peter Underwood in the Macclesfield Express for Wednesday, 27th April, 2004|
"So what?" the reader might say. "Local councillors scrapping? Who cares?"
Anyone who cares about natural justice and the judicial process as applied in its murkier sectors might well be interested in how the SBE operates. Anyone hauled up before one of its Adjudication Panels can be barred from holding office as a councillor for up to 5 years but, Cllr. Murphy has been dismayed to discover, THE PANEL WILL NOT LET HIM CALL WITNESSES TO REFUTE THE "EVIDENCE" AGAINST HIM.
The panel decides its cases "on the balance of probabilities" and applies the lowest standards of proof necessary to secure a "conviction". Its "investigators" have a history of sloppy and selective information gathering, and the SBE is quite happy to provide to third parties, inaccurate information about members of the public.
It is standard operating procedure for the SBE to send a draft "charge sheet" to the accused in the hope that the victim himself (or herself) will assist in the process of firming up the charges and to give them "stickability".
And when the case reaches the "kangaroo court", the President of an Adjudication Panel not only has the right to decide whether or not the accused can call any witnesses, he/she can also decide which questions the accused is allowed to ask, and this includes a ban on questions to the investigator.
Cllr. Flynn has announced that he will be attending Cllr. Murphy's Adjudication Panel. If he cannot be as a witness in the "case", he intends to offer moral support and he will also serve as a witness to the manner in which the proceedings are conducted.
While it is inevitable that Cllr. Murphy will receive one of the SBE's catch-all "No further action need be taken"*** verdicts if he receives a fair hearing, the SBE is, by its own unblushing admission, using methods of delivering "justice" which would be right at home in Stalinist Russian or Nazi Germany or Saddam Hussein's Iraq. They most certainly do not belong in England in the 21st Century.
It would appear that the Standards Board for England needs to have a searchlight shone into its murky corners as a matter of urgency as, on the balance of probabilities, it seems to be making a mockery of the spirit, at the very least, of the much vaunted European Convention on Human Rights.
*** We think you're guilty but we don't think we could get away with saying it and we can't be bothered doing anything about it anyway.
The Standards Board for England's Adjudication Panel system seems to be set up to provide the accused with a fair trial and then a fair hanging rather than anything resembling a competent judicial process.