George Walford: How Say You?

Kevin Maxwell was recently arrested in an early-morning swoop by the Serious Frauds Office. Television showed him being taken to a police vehicle, his arm grasped by a constable. Since he is officially innocent until convicted, it is hard to see how this treatment can be

Bill Bloggs has been remanded in custody. Bill was caught coming out of a back window at night, wearing a mask and with a sack (boldly lettered SWAG) full of silver over his shoulder. Yet he is, we are officially assured, still innocent (of that alleged offence) until convicted. Then on what grounds can he, any more than Kevin, be deprived of his normal freedom? In recent months, with convictions getting knocked down like pedestrians on a motorway, it has become even more important to maintain the presumption of innocence. Are we then to forbid the police to restrain the suspect caught with a carload of Semtex and detonators?

In social affairs, even more than in the physical world, rigid divisions (in this case the legal one between innocence and guilt) do not stand up to close examination.

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GENERAL literacy is one of civilisation’s proudest achievements. With television, radio, videos and non-verbal computer programmes providing mass communication more effectively than books and newspapers ever could, and governments seeking to reduce expenditure on education, how long can we expect general literacy to survive? Already it is being nibbled away at the edges. Comics grow in popularity even among adults, and the instructions for using equipment become diagrammatic.

from Ideological Commentary 57, August 1992.