“There are no innocent people; there are only guilty people who have not yet been discovered.” Corriere della Sera, 22 April 2016, page 5.
This quotation is taken from a recent interview with Signor Pier Camillo Davigo – the new President of the National Association of the Italian Judiciary, elected by his colleagues (the Italian career judiciary is a body that includes prosecutors and judges but not defenders).
As a background note, Mr Davigo was one of the leading prosecutors in the “clean hands campaign” against the corruption amongst politicians and business people, back in the early nineties. That campaign destroyed the parties that had governed Italy since the end of WWII. Quite rightly, many said, in the event. But was it right that political parties – elected by majority vote on universal suffrage to govern the country – should be destroyed by unelected judges, and not by the electorate? This is still a very thorny issue that bedevils Italian politics to this day.
Under the Berlusconi government, which in 1994 arose phoenix-like from the ashes of the Clean Hands “clean-up”, Italy’s situation became paradoxical: the judiciary was maintaining (and still is) that Berlusconi was a crook. He was maintaining that they were abusing their untrammeled powers, to persecute him for political purposes.
Each of these reciprocal accusations is devastating for the body politic. They cannot both be unfounded. At least one of them has to be right, and maybe both of them are!
Interviewer: [quotes an earlier statement by Davigo]: “There are no innocent people; there are only guilty people who have not yet been discovered.” Did you really say that? Davigo: I certainly did. In a precise context. But they quote me out of context so that people will think I am mad.
The quotation reveals a state of mind in a highly representative Italian Prosecutor. Working in tandem with his close colleague the “judge of the preliminary investigations”, he wields far greater powers, of arbitrary arrest and lengthy detention, than any English prosecutor or Scottish sheriff. He commands the criminal investigation police at every step of an investigation.
This is the model for the European Public Prosecutor, already under construction, whose rulebook will be Corpus Juris, and whose jurisdiction will extend to the UK, since by authorising European Arrest Warrants, which our Parliament foolishly reconfirmed in 2014, he can side-step the opt-out from his jurisdiction which our Parliament naively thought it had previously secured for us.
This quotation from Davigo can be used to back up the statement that in continental countries there really is a presumption of guilt, whereas in Britain there is a presumption of innocence.
However we must say “there is often a de facto presumption of guilt”. Often, because it is not always like that, some prosecutors have a fairer attitude, although their statutory powers do enable them to treat any suspect as guilty, by locking him up for many months with no public hearing, “pending investigation”, while they seek evidence; and de facto because people like Professor Spencer will jump up and say “This is nonsense, the Italian and French constitutions guarantee that a person under investigation must be considered innocent until the final verdict of guilt by the supreme court of appeal.” As indeed Prof. Spencer did, in a video-clip where he tried to rubbish the article by Nigel Farage in the Independent, published on 11th November 2013.
So how can the de jure position, the law, protected by the Italian Constitution no less, be negated by the de facto practice of the Italian judiciary? How can Italian career magistrates flout the very laws they are supposed to apply?
It is simple: the constitution says that suspects and defendants must be considered as innocent; but it does not stop them from being treated as guilty.
Continental professional career judiciaries can get away with this, because, collectively, they wield absolute power over the freedom of each and every one of us. The law entitles them to clap any suspect into jail for many months, with no public hearing, while they seek evidence of guilt. And whatever they find, if they still want to convict, they have only to persuade their colleagues on the bench that what they have found is “proof of guilt”. There are no independent juries, moved by plain common sense and sense of fair play, to gainsay their decisions.
The Corpus Juris project was unveiled by the Commission at a special seminar in Spain, which I attended, in 1997. The plan is for the criminal-law systems of all European countries, including the British Isles, to be harmonised and unified under a single code, based on the continental, Napoleonic-inquisitorial principles, of which Italy’s is a prime example. Our safeguards, enshrined in our legal traditions from Magna Carta onwards, will be scrapped.
This is the future that awaits the people of Britain if we are foolish, or ill-informed, enough to vote Remain on 23rd June.