Book of a lifetime: The Brer Rabbit Book, By Enid Blyton

 

When I was young, every night at bedtime some patient soul would read to me. For many months, only two books were permitted: The Adventures of Robin Hood and Enid Blyton's Brer Rabbit Book. Both have had an influence on my life, but the rabbit has probably had the greater impact.

 Brer Rabbit is a complex character who knows a thing or two about psychology. Chapter Two illustrates the most significant lesson he taught me. One day, he comes upon a figure made of tar. He tells the Tar Baby to move out of his way. Naturally, the Tar Baby remains mute. The angry rabbit hits him with a paw, which gets stuck. He lashes out again; another paw gets stuck. This goes on until Brer Rabbit finds all four of his paws glued tight.

At this point Brer Fox steps out from hiding and gleefully announces that he plans to cook his nemesis at once. Brer Rabbit, understanding the ruse, tells Brer Fox what an honour it would be to be devoured but begs: "Please, please, please! Don't throw me in that briar patch." Predictably, wanting to do the maximum harm to his enemy, the fox hurls Brer into the thorns. Brer Rabbit has prevailed once more.

This is the way that the US criminal justice system often works. Some people are so intent on doing injustice that they will do the opposite of whatever you demand. When I first went to Guantánamo, I begged the government not to censor evidence of torture, because I knew they would – which would make them pay twice for their crimes. First, there is the cover-up, often excruciating - as when the censors argued to suppress Moazzam Begg's tale of two prisoners being murdered in Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. It reflected the "methods and means of interrogation" and so was a matter of national security. That was itself a horrifying suggestion, and we got the information unclassified.

I recently filed a petition on behalf of Kris Maharaj in one more attempt to seek a fair hearing. Kris has spent 26 years in prison for a crime he patently did not commit. Such a case creates a mountain of information. The strict page limit on a petition is impossible to meet, so we asked the prosecutor to agree to extra space; she refused. She even protested that we should not single-space the pleading. It was a marvellous illustration of her petty approach to injustice. The staff of Reprieve, the human rights charity of which I am director, have long since understood that the greatest legal philosopher is not Plato or Aristotle, but Brer Rabbit, so many times have they heard me recount his tales.

Clive Stafford Smith's 'Injustice: Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America' is now a Vintage paperback

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border