I haven’t yet written about the two years (2006-2008) I spent on trial, falsely accused of drug offences, and the life changing effect it had on me and my family. I was only finally cleared this February, which marked the end of a highly traumatic process, one I had waited a long time to put behind me. February was time to start forgetting, which is what I did, but I think now, despite many reasons why I should not do so, it is time to start remembering again.
Criminal proceedings, even those to which you are found not guilty, are one of a number of traumas (mental illness being the other that springs to mind) which, for societal reasons, are not easy to talk about. In part this is because some people like to pretend these things just don’t happen. They only happen to bad people on TV. But it is mainly because, in many eyes, regardless of whether the protagonist of the tale is innocent or guilty, just the association with the subject matter is enough to taint them. Even if this is a minority opinion (and I’m not sure that it is), the disdain of the Daily Mail set is not something anyone deserves, irrespective of their crimes.
A trial consists of two halves, prosecution and defence, and is heard before a jury of 12. In my case the prosecution took three days to make their argument, wheeling out a parade of sordid “evidence” that painted a phantasmagoric view of Brighton’s criminal underbelly. My defence, which lasted only a matter of hours, did little more than point out that just about everything the prosecution had presented, fascinating though it was, had only the most tenuous connection to me, the guy in the glass box. On this, quite correctly, the jury found me not guilty. But not unanimously. Of the 12 jurors, there were two who, despite the void of evidence, would have sent me to prison for something I didn’t do. Guilt by association.
I make my living as an ActionScript freelancer, which means I have a large number of clients who come to me as someone they can trust to do a job they often don’t fully understand. This trust is essential to good client relations. If 10% of my potential clients were to see me with the same narrow minded prejudice as these two jurors, that my association with such horribleness alone means I am of poor character, it would effect my business. So, for purely financial reasons I am discouraged from ever admitting publicly to what Sussex Police put me through. This is before I have given any consideration to the reactions of my parents, former employers, my boy’s teachers and the old dears chattering at the bus stop.
But I’m now thinking bollocks to that. I was wholly innocent of the three charges Sussex Police tried, for reasons I will later explore, to pin on me. And the personal violation of their actions in pursuing me was a crime that far outstripped the societal damage of the trumped up charges. The charges would have resulted in a long term of imprisonment, while the actions of Sussex Police don’t even warrant an apology.
Obviously this is a very long story, so I am not going to tell it all in one blog post, but I will attempt over the coming months to go public with my experience and write a number of posts under this heading about the things I learned on my journey through the British Justice system. On this path I learned a lot about morality, society, concepts of right and wrong and an individual’s place in the system, so it is something that should hopefully make for interesting reading.
I’m still here anyway, so you already know the story has a happy ending.