In 1931, there were just 168,000 Britons living in India (including 60,000 in the army and police and 4,000 in civil government) – to run a country approaching 300 million people. In earlier times, a mere 31,000 stalwart Britons had achieved the same impossible task. A task made possible purely by the agreement of the Indians to accept being so governed.
The Raj, in Eric Hobsbawm’s evocative words, was ‘so easily won, so narrowly based, so absurdly easily ruled, thanks to the devotion of a few and the passivity of the many’.
In 1919, Mohandas Gandhi reached down and scooped up a handful of mud at a beach and declared that he was shaking the foundations of the British Empire. He boiled the mud in seawater to produce illegal salt, an act repeated by thousands which led to the arrest of an estimated 60,000-100,000 men and women who participated for the first time in mass public demonstrations. Widespread civil disobedience followed with ordinary people across the Indian continent burning British cloth, picketing shops selling foreign cloth, picketing alcohol shops, and withholding their rent.
The British Raj collapsed.
Britain is ruled by consent too. 650 MPs legislating our behaviour; 126,818 police officers carrying out their wishes – a task only made possible by the tacit agreement of 61 million of us to be so ruled.
Looking through the Sunday papers today, I find myself constantly gasping at just what we do consent to. Cravenly, culpably, reproachably, and in some cases, opportunistically, consent to.
In the Mail on Sunday, we have David Rose interviewing Bhadresh Gohil. Mr Gohil, an innocent solicitor, was convicted of money-laundering and jailed for ten years.
An appalling tale that I first wrote of back in January; of a Metropolitan police unit set up to investigate financial corruption which was itself corrupted by ex-Met officers working for a private investigation firm, RISC Management. That corruption was exacerbated by the failure to disclose a secret dossier showing the charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice should never have been brought.
‘We have come across the clearest evidence that prosecuting counsel, Sasha Wass QC and Esther Schutzer-Weissmann, along with lawyers from the CPS and a number of officers from the DPS all prosecuted my client knowing he was innocent.’ The evidence, he went on, showed that ‘prosecuting counsel lied to this court’ in pre-trial hearings, and to the Court of Appeal.
In a sensational volte face, a CPS spokesman yesterday admitted it is now clear that, contrary to repeated statements by Crown lawyers in court and in legal documents, there is ‘material to support the assertion that a police officer received payment in return for information’.
Mr Gohil has now been paid £20,000 in an out-of-court settlement by the CPS for the three weeks he spent remanded in custody at the end of last year facing trial.
The CPS of course, have paid nothing of the sort. We have paid, the British taxpayers. We have paid Mr Gohil £20,000 compensation for his ordeal at the hands of corrupt prosecutors. That is our ‘silent consent’.
The Sunday Times tells us of Michael Isherwood, who was accused by a 16-year-old girl of secretly filming her on his phone. Eventually the police returned his mobile phone and computer, apologising for the delay in accessing the material on his phone which showed nothing more than innocent images of Michael playing golf, claiming that the delay was because they had difficulty in evading the security on his phone. They hadn’t been able to ask Michael for help in unlocking the phone because – Michael had committed suicide 5 weeks after his arrest, convinced that his life was ruined by the publicity surrounding the allegation and arrest.
We consent to that tragedy. It was done in our name, paid for by us.
David Bryant, 66, a former firefighter from Christchurch, Dorset, was freed by the Appeal Court in July following almost three years in jail for a crime he did not commit. It had emerged that his accuser was a fantasist and serial liar, something the police had failed to establish in their headlong dash for evidence for another conviction – but which Mr Bryant’s wife was able to discover without any of the avenues open to a police investigation. Whether Mr Bryant receives compensation for his imprisonment remains to be seen at present, but if he does:
We will be paying it, out of our taxed income. Not the police officers who failed to investigate properly, nor the CPS who blindly went ahead with the prosecution. However incompetent they are – we pay for them too.
Geoff Long spent five years in prison, partly on evidence such as ‘the pink sink in the bedroom where he had washed himself after abusing her’. The police evidence failed to mention that they had even ripped up the floorboards in that room and discovered that there had never been a sink or any other form of plumbing in the bedroom, no pink, sky blue pink, or even fuschia sink. It took a trial, two attempts at a retrial, and £100,000 worth of solicitors bills before ‘the CPS decided not to offer any further evidence’ – as they so euphemistically put discovering that their one and only prosecution witness is talking utter bunkum.
We pay their wages whilst they are doing this – they do it on our behalf. We silently consent to their treatment of Geoff Long.
Have I finished? Nope. The Guardian tells us that we must fork out £100,000 to Conrad Jones of Nottingham. Let us say that given Mr Jones reputation and background, it was not surprising that he should have come to the attention of the judiciary. However, he was innocent of the charge of ‘intimidating a witness’ to a murder. He was sent to prison for six years. All the while the CPS held evidence showing that he couldn’t possibly have been guilty as charged because they had video footage of surveillance by another police unit who suspected him of a completely different crime!
Sasha Barton, Jones’s solicitor, said: “To discover years after the event that the CPS, on the advice of highly experienced lawyers, has knowingly and repeatedly failed to comply with the criminal law on disclosure is shocking, and raises very serious questions which go right to the heart of public confidence in the criminal justice system and the legal profession.”
Last year, a black firefighter, Edric Kennedy-Macfoy, was tasered by Police. Mr Kennedy-Macfoy claimed he had been assaulted and racially abused. The Metropolitan Police apologised and paid him compensation.
They didn’t pay him anything; we did. They handed him some of our tax money.
Now the police officers involved who were due to face misconduct allegations have made a formal complaint alleging the IPCC deliberately withheld evidence and that criminal offences may have been committed.
We will be paying for the legal representation at the ensuing hearing. We will be paying for any compensation due to any officers who have been unfairly maligned.
Not the Met Police; not the IPCC; just the taxpayers.
A draft report by Sir Richard Henriques, the retired High Court judge, was submitted to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met Police commissioner, on Friday concerning the £2 million pound Operation Midland investigation which the Met Police chose to carry out.
We paid for that report; £66,000. We paid for Operation Midland. We will be paying Hogan-Howe’s pension.
We won’t be allowed to see the report.
Our only function is to silently consent to all this, and uncomplainingly pay up.
Just like the inhabitants of the Indian continent, so long ago.
Pass the salt.