Guilty Until Proven Innocent

“The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart:
and merciful men are taken away …”

A woman has been missing for 24 hours. You – wanting to help to find her – remember
that you saw a woman walking along the road at approximately the same time
that was given in the news bulletin. You telephone Police:

“I would like to report that I saw a woman matching that description at 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon.” Now — What have you just done ?

You have potentially moved yourself to the ‘top of the list’ as The Prime Suspect.

A harsh presumption to make ?


Simply the reality of my experience – as an honest and honourable man, with the conduct of police.

One of the greatest travesties ever accepted by ignorant mankind is the ludicrous fantasy of “Innocent Until Proven Guilty”.

Moral Integrity and Conscience are all-but non existent in the world today. A fact that is PLAINLY discernible in the routine statements of people in all walks of life.

Being in the line of sight of a policeman, is all that is required
to be ‘picked up’ and ordered (or heaved), into the back of a police car; and held captive until your Innocence can be proven.

I know: it happened to me.

The mentality of modern man is Self Esteem: project ‘happy thoughts’ to everyone –
and do not DARE to suggest that anyone examines their own conscience.

Narcissism is now ‘normal’ in 21st century society. Make someone wobble on their throne
– and you will be despised. AND you will deserve it … apparently.

People are “compassionate”, as long as it does not cost them any emotional effort.
But even the absence of genuine compassion pales in comparison to the cruelty
that has become characteristic of multitudes – from punks to police.

The hard-heartedness of people is unmistakable: the sheer ease with which many – if not most,
treat others with contempt.

Regarding people with suspicion and contempt: appeals to the Luciferian vanity
of the modern mind. It feeds pride, and makes those – who Should Be ashamed,
feel as though they are somebody important.

An old man stands at the fence of a school playground, watching four little girls
skipping rope: teachers on ‘playground duty’ immediately rush to challenge him
… calling for help – or the police. Obviously, he is a filthy paedophile.

A well-dressed man in his sixties walks arm-in-arm, laughing and eating ice cream,
with a woman who cannot be more than about 20.


Dirty old man.
Gold-digging little witch.

The first thought – these days ( I cannot but wonder ), would Rarely Be that the old man
at the playground – now approaching the close of his life, reminisces blissfully
back to his own childhood …

… and finds a moment of comfort and pleasure in the joyful squeals of happiness
that come from the children’s’ play.

Nor, I suspect, would many consider that the young woman is delighted to be visiting,
and spending a day out with her much-loved grandpa.

Seeing nothing but their own egocentric ‘world view’, people have become exceedingly selfish.
And exceedingly cruel.

At times, I am obliged to wade through the societal sewage that now passes for “entertainment”,
in order that I might present observations having made some effort to have, at least,
‘done the research’.

As suspected, and as near as I can gather, the last 10 years of television has conditioned
what now passes for the human mind, to be utterly Ruthless.

In the mid-2000’s, programme after programme depicted “teams” of predominantly (seemingly) ’20-something’ adults (?), banding together to ‘compete’ and “eliminate” one member of the group
at the end of each episode –

ejecting them from party-houses, islands, weight-loss camps, world-travelling obstacle courses,
and even executive boardrooms.

So-called ‘home improvement’ programmes are designed to foster greed in viewers,
and make people want that ‘home improvement’ and so, spend money or increase debt.

From its inception selling soap to housewives, this is the point of television:
show a product, or present a ‘hero’ using a product – and mesmerised ‘fans’
will be driven to do likewise.

Google Plus, Facebook, tumblr, and whatever-other ‘social-sites’ are out there,
give every individual the chance to be their own personal despot – ‘liking’ based upon
spurious opinion; ruthlessly rejecting, ‘unfriending’, or blocking whomever,
on nothing more than ignorance, bad temper, or offended ego.

Social Media … It truly IS nothing more than a Correspondence Course in pure Vanity.

EMPATHY beckons compassion because it places you in another person’s situation:
it obliges you to see life from their eyes – Not yours.

COMPASSION makes an effort to relieve the pain of those who are in misery – without any thought
of personal reward.

And Compassion delivers KINDNESS – which is a gift that can change someone’s life.

It is a most significant observation of the old Puritans that,

to return Good for Evil … is heavenly;
to return Good for Good … is earthly;
to return Evil for Good … is demonic.

Modern-minded men and women are so steeped in vanity that they see OFFENCE in any attempt
at civility which … THEY … did not initiate.

Since I was a child, I have been mystified by the absurd mantra, cited ad nauseum,
“Innocent until proven guilty”.

And not merely because of the early advice of my gentle, godly grandpa: –
“Never trust a copper son. Never.”

Allow me to assure you of the reality that the days of the wise old “Bobby on the beat’
… are long gone.

Being in the line of sight of a policeman, is all that is required to be ‘picked up’
and ordered (or heaved), into the back of a police car and held captive until your Innocence
can be proven.

I know: it happened to me.

My grandpa, in the 1960’s – whilst walking home from work at the Botanic Gardens in Belfast,
noticed a young woman struggling with a shopping bag in each arm.

A large tear had formed in the brown paper of one, and tins were falling to the footpath
as the woman was clearly about to drop both.

Rushing forward and placing a hand underneath the bag, my Grandpa said:
“Not to worry, I have it!”.

The woman released both bags, turned … and screamed bloody murder into the air.

Two policeman arrived and laid hands upon the man ( which is all he would ever describe
of the incident ). Were it not for the integrity of witnesses, he would certainly
have wound up in a cell. Not one of the policemen – neither of them – was the least interested to consider the events as he related them.

My own Dad – a pious, submissive, and gentle man – while working in Canada, found himself in court
in the late 1960’s to answer the charge and subsequent exorbitant ticket fine made by a policeman
who insisted that my Dad was speeding, and blatantly ran a red light.

The judge in court heard the policeman’s account; listened to my father’s account … and then
turned to face my Dad.

‘Mr Livingstone’, he said (something to the effect of), ‘because you would not pay the ticket
and should have done (such and such – given some sort of ‘notice of intent’), I am obliged
to fine you. There is nothing, by law, I can do to avoid that.

I hereby’, said the Judge, ‘fine you … One Dollar.’

The judge then turned to the policeman and said (something like), “If I ever see you
in my courtroom again for any thing as contrived and ludicrous as this, I will do my best
to have your job. ‘Next case !”

In 1990, we came to Canada for a temporary work assignment for my wife. [ see “Touching Evil” ]

Looking from a window of our rented Canadian house into the blackness of one winter Friday night,
I saw the movement of several figures in the back garden belonging to the elderly lady next door.

Not taking my eyes off the figures, I asked my wife to telephone next door. Yes, the woman heard noises and was frightened. As my wife set the telephone down, I immediately called police
and told them that I was going out to see who was in the back of our neighbour’s property.

The dispatcher told me that ‘a car’ was on the way, and would be but a few minutes in this little northern town.

As I arrived outside the neighbour’s house and shined a light over the fence, a police car drove up. The two constables told me that there had been “activity” on the highway involving ‘bikers’,
and that they were, right now, being escorted out of town.

Very good.

The next morning, walking outside, I noticed a VHS video-tape case lying in the snow.
Opening it, I took it to the car and drove to the police office.

Handing the blue case over, I showed the counter staff what was obviously meant to be
a mock-bomb consisting of children’s plasticine, a watch, and wires. Somebody, evidently,
meant to scare someone.

The day after, Sunday – I received a telephone call: Could I come to the police office?
Presuming that they wanted to know a few details, or even thank me for being vigilant,
I went immediately around – where I was met at the door and ushered in to a side, windowless room.

There, on a wooden table was a huge, reel-to-reel tape recorder, and two plain wooden chairs.
A large sergeant told me to sit down, turned on the tape recorder, and said:

“You are from Northern Ireland?”
“Yes”, I replied.

And – you were in the military?”

“So…” the sergeant leaned towards me – “You would know how to make a bomb?”

I was … speechless.


What had my grandpa told me when I was a boy?

Police procedure: The Path of Least Effort.

Haul someone into a room.
Degrade their character.
Get them to agree.
Case Closed.
Home for Tea and a promotion that much closer.

I looked at the tape reels … “Yes” I replied.

“I have not yet read you the charge of Mischief”, he said.

Then, I leaned forward, and spoke to the tape recorder:

“I telephoned on Friday night to say that there was disturbance,
in the dark, behind our neighbours house. Two constables appeared. They talked to me.
They told me that there was ‘disturbance’. Go talk to them.”

The sergeant moved his prodigious bulk out of the room.
And came back some indeterminate time later.

“Do you have anything you want to say?” he asked.

“Yes”, I replied. “I understand now why people don’t want to get involved.”

And that – in northern Canada, in 1990, was when I woke up to the realities
of police – and how they conduct their business.

As soon as I crossed the threshold of the double glass doors,and put my feet
on the paved footpath adjacent the main road, I – ( I could not help myself
… could not control it ) – I wept. I cried. Trembled. And did all that I could
not to throw up on the public street.

I was petrified to realise just how easily government thugs could make people disappear;
take you right off the street, out of your home … and throw your life in turmoil –
while they accuse you, and invent scenarios that appeal to a contemptuous, cruel, and
aggressive mentality.

I wrote a letter … and withdrew my name from the waiting list for training with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to which I had been accepted.

There was no way on earth that I was going to have any part of that. My moral conscience
would never allow me to be part of an organisation that treated people with that level
of presumption and disdain.

Ten years later …

Having not heard from a woman who was (we thought) a firm family friend, I went to her house
to check on her well-being. She had been separated from a selfish husband whom, we knew, was
‘in town’ that day. Contrary to a pre-arranged plan – by evening, we had heard nothing from her.

I drove to her house and, while standing, studying, trying to understand why all her doors and windows were lying wide open – was seen by new neighbours next door.

Their call to the police was answered within minutes by two policemen, who ordered me
into the back of their car.

From the claustrophobic cage, I tried to explain that it was a mistake. “Shut up!”
was the response I received. Twice. Knocking on our friend’s door, she admitted that,
yes, she knew me. What absolutely crippled me, was that she made no demand to have me released. Just the bare assertion that she knew who I was.

A pile of debris by her front door made it self-evident that she had set the estranged husband
to work re-tiling her bathroom. The chemical stench of floor adhesive: every window and door open. Everything made sense – now.

But, locked in the back of the police car, it was evident that my presence would have spoiled the ‘Independent Woman’ Act that she was putting on for the estranged spouse. Rather than be “embarrassed”, she let me sit in that police car. The “friendship” ended promptly that night.

Four years later, I was required to have a routine security check for a photojournalism job.
I was exasperated because I had to pay for it. My exasperation, however, turned to disbelief
as the woman at the security counter told me that I had had “an incident” on my history.
She read out the date.

I could not take it in.

Those two brusque creatures had ‘flagged’ me in the police computer system. Although a telephone call by the security woman ‘cleared’ me – that ‘flag’ against my name, will follow me
for the rest of my life.

This is my experience.
This is my father’s experience.
This is my grandfather’s experience.

If you are an honest man or woman of integrity, may I suggest that you NEVER
– as you value your safety – be seduced by the Fantasy that people who SHOULD
be exercising discretion, fairness, and wisdom – by virtue of their profession,
will actually dispense equity and compassion where it is warranted;

or are even remotely regulated by character and integrity that SHOULD BE mandatory
for such an office. NEVER imagine that people in positions of ‘power’ are morally obligated
to integrity, by their conscience.

I submit to you that Moral Integrity and Conscience are all-but non existent in the world today.
A fact that is PLAINLY observable in the routine statements of people in all walks of life.

Conceit, callousness and contempt are the qualities that clearly emerge when many (if not most)
are given a uniform or position of power, however trivial – at least, in my observations in life.

Contempt for those ‘who are not like us’ is all-too evident from the swaggering demeanour and dismissive conversation of many in positions of trust.

‘Never trust a thief.’ ‘Never trust a cop.’
Those to sentiments impressed upon me by my grandpa me in the 1960’s – I fully endorse.

There will, of course, be exceptions to such a rule.
But the potential cost … And their power … is Far Too Severe
for me to glibly place my trust in a potentially tyrannical despot.

In an age that is utterly devoid of even the desire for wisdom, discretion, and empathy,
Guilty until Proven Innocent is the methodology employed.

People’s name, character, and (practically speaking) lives are routinely snuffed out in an instant – little short of murder – by multitudes who are bereft of the ability to think, much less the conscience to think with discretion … or compassion.

To anyone in a position to speak out against evil men and women – make absolutely certain
that you stand upon fact, and not gossip, rumour, or opinion.
Before connecting a person’s name and character with unsavoury presumption – think. Think.

When eager to open your mouth: shut it.
When typing to ‘expose’ someone’s shame – stop.

Be very careful before you destroy someone’s name and reputation …
because if you are wrong, you might effectively have ended their reputation
– as those two policemen did me.

Learn how to save a life … instead of destroying one.

It may even be that, in showing compassion for someone else’s life,
you will go some way towards saving your own.

P Livingstone

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