Keir Starmer: enemy of liberty

As Director of Public Prosecutions, he bulldozed the rights of defendants.

Luke Gittos
Columnist

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Topics Politics UK

Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, is currently favourite to become the next leader of the Labour Party.

In his campaign for the leadership so far, Starmer has been keen to emphasise the work he did as a barrister before he became a Labour MP. His campaign launch video references many of his old cases, including his role in the dispute between the National Union of Mineworkers and the then Conservative government, as well as the ‘McLibel’ trial.

The video implies that Starmer’s history is one of defending individual and workers’ rights. But this is misleading. It ignores the fact that, as a jobbing barrister, Starmer would have been selected for each case based on his relevant expertise. The cases he worked on say nothing of his politics or character, as he would not necessarily have chosen them himself.

Starmer’s more recent tenure as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) does, however, tell us a great deal about the would-be Labour leader. Between 2008 and 2013, as DPP, Starmer was responsible for policymaking within the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which brings all prosecutions for criminal offences in England and Wales.

The campaign video claims that Starmer ‘stood up to the powerful’ as DPP. But his disastrous reign was more accurately characterised by his willingness to ride roughshod over the rights of defendants under the guise of ‘victim-centred justice’. In particular, he railed against the ‘adversarial system’ of criminal trials, and advocated a move towards an ‘inquisitorial system’.

The adversarial system defends against the inherent unfairness of being prosecuted by a state body, which is able to marshal far greater resources than the average defendant. It does so by imposing a high burden of proof and providing ample opportunities for the defence to robustly challenge the prosecution’s case. It thereby attempts to create ‘equality of arms’ between the state and the individual.

The inquisitorial system, on the other hand, pretends that the defendant is in the same position as the state, and this creates the potential for real unfairness.

Starmer’s video also features images of Rebekah Brooks, in a nod to his involvement in her prosecution for phone hacking at the News of the World. The inclusion of Brooks is pretty brazen given that she, her assistant Cheryl Carter, and her husband Charlie, were eventually cleared of all charges. Brooks is an innocent woman. The entire episode was a blemish on Starmer’s record, but he presents it as a victory.

Starmer also paved the way for the many catastrophic failings of the CPS that followed his departure. In 2013, he proposed altering the tests that were used to assess the credibility of complainants in sexual-violence cases. He justified this by saying, ‘We cannot afford another Savile moment’.

His reforms culminated in guidance published in October 2013 that instructed CPS lawyers to focus on the credibility of complaints, rather than the credibility of complainants. In practice, this meant overlooking common-sense questions.

This change was later reflected in police guidance. In December 2014, senior officers at the Metropolitan Police relied on this guidance when they announced that claims of a paedophile ring operating out of Westminster were ‘credible and true’. They had been made by Carl Beech. Last year, Beech was convicted of 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Beech approached the Metropolitan Police in 2012, while Starmer was still in charge at the CPS. It was Starmer’s reign that encouraged police to believe complainants rather than robustly investigate the evidence. It was this environment that enabled Beech’s lies to cause incredible harm to those he accused.

Starmer may wish to portray his history as one of standing up to the powerful, but his attempts to bulldoze the longstanding rights of defendants lay the groundwork for one of the greatest failings of our justice system in recent decades.

His attitude towards historic allegations was equally troubling. In 1970, Liberal MP Cyril Smith was investigated in connection with allegations of sexual abuse. No action was taken at the time. In November 2012, two years after Smith’s death, Starmer publicly declared that had the evidence against Smith been reviewed by the CPS under his tenure, then it would have prosecuted him.

This was an unprecedented and entirely unfair announcement to make. The decision to prosecute should be taken objectively, in the knowledge that the defendant has a right to defend himself against any charges. Announcing that accused people ‘would have been prosecuted’ when they are no longer around is tantamount to declaring them guilty in their absence. This was an outrage against the principles of our justice system.

Starmer may be a slick operator. He may be the most ‘prime ministerial’ candidate out of a truly dreadful crop. But he must not be allowed to whitewash his own record.

Luke Gittos is a spiked columnist and author. His new book Human Rights – Illusory Freedom: Why We Should Repeal the Human Rights Act, is published by Zero Books. Order it here.

Picture by: Getty.

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Comments

James Knight

9th January 2020 at 6:01 pm

The biggest joke is his Orwellian title “Shadow Minister for Brexit”.

michael savell

9th January 2020 at 4:54 pm

In fact,as I remember it,Savile’s so called crimes were investigated quite ruthlessly and it was found that it was impossible for him to have been in the area where 70% of the crimes were supposed to have been committed.Then there were the late BBC parties but of course nobody bothered about them because females were involved.I also seem to recall Starmer and certain computers.Harry is an utter wimp,been better if he had been a drunk

Peter Dow

9th January 2020 at 3:08 pm

Keir Stamer is the WORST choice for Labour leader because he misled the party as Corbyn’s Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union from October 2016 – misleading the party into offending Leave voters by remoaning, remoaning and remoaning again to obstruct any Brexit deal getting through parliament.

In particular, Starmer misled Corbyn to WHIP Labour MPs to vote against Tory Brexit deals, when the only clever whip was to ABSTAIN, otherwise a free vote should have been granted so that Labour MPs could reflect their constituency feelings on the Remain vs Leave issue.

Starmer misled Labour into falling into the Tory trap which was to make Labour look like they were obstructing the democratic victory of Leave voters (in England and Wales).

Starmer handed Johnson his election winning slogan “Get Brexit Done!”

So there can be no worse choice than Starmer for Labour leader. The man is the kiss of death for Labour.

Jim Lawrie

9th January 2020 at 9:30 pm

“Starmer misled Labour into falling into the Tory trap which was to make Labour look like they were obstructing the democratic victory of Leave voters (in England and Wales).” No trap needed. They did not look like they were doing that. With few exceptions they were all for thwarting the Referendum result – rank and file, membership, MP’s and leadership. As James Knight wryly hints at above, the very existence of his portfolio says it all.

Douglas Milnes

9th January 2020 at 1:00 pm

Starmer might be bad but he can’t be worse than the other likely candidate. Jess Phillips is a dreadful MP, a sexist, lying bigot who doesn’t care a whit about two-thirds of the population (men and children). Given a choice of two evils, it’s better to take the lesser of them.

steve moxon

9th January 2020 at 2:57 pm

Absolutely, though both should be in prison for their virulent genuine hatred towards men and consequent malfeasance in public office. Starmer’s foul deeds are unforgiveable.
The upside is that the more they thrust themselves into the public eye, the more their appalling sins will be aired.

Chris Stapleton

9th January 2020 at 12:57 pm

“Starmer also paved the way for the many catastrophic failings of the CPS that followed his departure.”

As DPP he was a feminist stooge, paving the way for the Home Office and CPS (particularly under Alison Saunders) to undermine the presumption of innocence for men accused of sexual crimes, and encouraging the police to withold evidence that would otherwise lead to the acquital of accused men.

He facilitated a feminist power grab that ultimately failed, only because they over-reached themselves – as they habitually do, being bigoted zealots.

steve moxon

9th January 2020 at 3:13 pm

Yes indeed, he was Alison Saunders’ dad, as it were.
At least Saunders had the excuse that she was ugly even by the standards of the back ends of buses, and seems to have been taking it out on all chaps for having received not a single poke in all her woke days. Starmer’s excuse is hard to fathom. Perhaps he somehow thought licking the femascist vulva would make him seem less gay? Nope, he’s just obscenity incarnate.
It would be great to see all his filthy linen being aired in public with a rise to prominence.

Paulo Finani

9th January 2020 at 4:18 pm

Haha so true!! I also thought Saunders’ hatred of men must have stemmed from her grotesque looks the first time I saw her face.

Puddy Cat

9th January 2020 at 12:36 pm

Although I am sure we are all agog at the BBC/Guardian’s absorption in relation to the picking of a new leader. Although they are treating it as a matter of crucial importance all they actually seem to be doing is highlighting the doings of Jurassic politics. There are so many organs that these candidates have to submit themselves to that the system will, inevitably, pick a chameleon. One who has the handle on greater control of their virtue signalling and who has a greater stock of ancient associations with some former, more meaningful expression of a party of the working class. Yes, direct action is a London-centric activity where a crowd can be mustered around a crowd and the placards are ever pristine and produced within seconds of some idea being floated. Against this background Boris has hit the nail on the head. The balance required is the evening-up of opportunity. Who knows, perhaps in our lifetimes we will see opportunities for better padded northerners to take to the streets to protect their privilege?

Femxle Penis

9th January 2020 at 10:21 am

Has anyone started a parody account on these lot on Twitter yet, Rebecca Wrong-Daily with an avatar of Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys with a wig photoshopped in, for example?

Femxle Penis

9th January 2020 at 10:19 am

I’m not saying that the candidates so far are weak, but if they were a TV show, it would be on ITV4 at 01.00 and hosted by Paddy McGuiness

david rawson

9th January 2020 at 9:39 am

Every time one of the pretenders to the Labour throne opens their mouth, they make Bozo look like Churchill. Let’s go the whole hog and put Lammy in the frame

Marvin Jones

9th January 2020 at 12:32 pm

Lammy? did you ever see him on Mastermind? YES! Mastermind! if you have not, you must look it up on U-Tube. He thinks the successor to Henry V111 was Henry V1111. You are on the right track though. How to have a Tory government for eternity.

Dominic Straiton

9th January 2020 at 9:06 am

How a civil servant is allowed to become an mp shows there is a massive job to do draining the swamp. I hope Dominic Cummings shows half of them the door.

NEIL DATSON

9th January 2020 at 8:46 am

What is most disturbing is that few will find grounds to challenge Luke’s last paragraph. Certainly, of the contenders who appear to have any chance of winning the Labour leadership he seems the most competent and capable. But that is to say very, very little indeed.

Philip Humphrey

9th January 2020 at 8:00 am

I agree, we should be worried about Starmer’s contempt for the rights of defendants particularly in sexual cases. Don’t expect Starmer to defend the basic rights of citizens to free speech, freedom of religion or freedom of conscience or innocent until proven guilty, he won’t. He’ll back the “wokes” and politically correct every time against ordinary citizens. And yet he is being presented as a moderate. I think the electorate needs to be disabused of that idea. As it stands the Labour party doesn’t have a moderate candidate for the leadership IMO.

Carrie Casey

9th January 2020 at 3:58 am

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ZENOBIA PALMYRA

9th January 2020 at 12:39 am

Well, if he ‘bulldozed’ workers’ rights then he should be able to steal a large number of Tory votes at the next GE!

Michael Lynch

9th January 2020 at 12:31 am

Wasn’t Saville also tried in the Press after he was dead? They say there’s no smoke without fire, but everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence until found guilty in a court of law by a jury of peers. Evidence needs to be tried and tested otherwise we may as well have mob rule and be automatically deemed guilty by hearsay and gossip. Starmer, like his vile mate Watson, have used the law for partisan ends and should be immediately investigated. In a way I hope one of these ideologues becomes the Labour leader because Boris will make short work of them as he has with Corbyn today.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

9th January 2020 at 12:40 am

I agree that dead paedos should receive a fair trial.

steve moxon

9th January 2020 at 3:01 pm

Savile was not a “paedo” — there is no indication at all, never mind that he had a predilection for pre-pubertal individuals — and there is no actual evidence, only mere accusation, that he was anything more than a creep.

Michael Lynch

9th January 2020 at 10:21 pm

ZP, I have a real problem trying to work you out sometimes. You see I don’t know if you’re being ironic there and are therefore a bit of a smart Alec who just likes fu@king with people, or, if you really are just a looney tune Trot.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

14th January 2020 at 12:58 pm

Michael Lynch – foxed, eh?

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

14th January 2020 at 12:59 pm

Steve Moxon – you’re right. Savile was both a paedo AND a necrophiliac.

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