From this week’s Spectator – Charles Moore
Sir William Macpherson of Cluny has died. His obituaries praise him for his 1998 inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence case. His report did indeed shed light on the failure of the police to catch the young man’s killers. It has had, however, a profound and bad effect on our law.
The report’s recommendations redefined a racist incident: ‘A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.’ This definition means that absolutely anything in the world could be a racist incident, because it relies wholly on what a complainant ‘perceives’. The definition’s use of the word ‘victim’ also implies acceptance that every person who claims to be a victim is one.
This short-circuits the duty of the law to establish the facts. And if a racist incident is thus defined, it follows that anyone who denies that a racist incident took place is rejecting the ‘perception’ of racism and is therefore himself racist, at least ‘unconsciously’ or ‘institutionally’ so.
From this perception doctrine has flowed a vast new body of law and practice which concerns not only race but other ‘hate crimes’ about religion, sexuality, sex and gender etc. It has also helped create the climate — in sex abuse claims, for instance — of believing the ‘victim’ without proper evidence.
As was obvious, though widely denied, from the first, this was bound to empower false accusations. We have seen case after case — most famously Carl Beech, fanned by Tom Watson — in which this has caused appalling pain and injustice.
We have also seen consequent bad processes deployed as weapons in unrelated disputes.
Thus Christ Church, Oxford, obsessed with getting rid of its Dean, Martyn Percy, belatedly raised ‘safeguarding’ issues to try (unsuccessfully) to discredit him.
I am afraid the Macpherson Report got all this going. Sir William, an upright judge, did not intend this, but it has happened.
To put it simply, it undermines one of the most basic principles of the rule of law — the presumption of innocence.