Lawyers snub rule of law

At Twickenham on Saturday I was reminded of the Carmarthenshire funeral where one of those attending dropped down dead. The local paper reported that "the sudden death of Mr John Davies, who was highly respected in the district, cast a pall of gloom over the proceedings."

At the Pilkington final, however, the sudden death of Will Carling - even though there is now to be a resurrection - was the cause not so much of gloom as of anger. Never before had I seen the crowd in such a mood.

Crowds (as the French sociologist Gustave le Bon was the first to point out) have their own psychology: simpler, more violent than that of the individual. They are quick to anger, easily swayed, out for revenge. "A la Lanterne," they cry.

There was no doubt about the leading candidates for popular vengeance at HQ. One was Dennis Easby, the Rugby Football Union president and retired Reading solicitor who was chiefly responsible for depriving Carling of his captaincy. The other was dear old Dudley Wood, who is retiring from the secretaryship and played, as far as one can see, no part in Friday's punitive proceedings.

Indeed, it appears that, from the start, Wood tried to calm things down. But then, crowds do not discriminate any too nicely between guilt and innocence when their blood is up. Both Wood and Easby were booed with equal fervour when they put in their appearances at presentations of one sort or another. There were powerful chants of "Car-ling", "Car-ling" not only before the match, but afterwards as well.

With my instinctive sympathy for the underdog, I thought there must be something to be said in favour of the officials who were being reprobated by the crowd with such untiring vigour. Besides (for it is always as well to be conscious of one's own prejudices), Carling has never been my favourite rugby character.

He is a very good centre. As a captain, he is not so much the choice of the players as the creation of Geoff Cooke. Rob Andrew, Brian Moore and Dean Richards all had more powerful claims to the captaincy. He is the first player to use rugby, quite legitimately within the existing rules, to feather his own nest. It is, I suppose, to his credit that he wishes to extend to others the opportunities which he enjoys himself.

That was my initial response. Then I thought: "No. There are several factors which are in Carling's favour." One is that, astonishingly, Jack Rowell was not consulted. Another is that Carling did not think the "old farts" remark was part of the recording. Whether he was deceived or not, he claims to have been deceived; or, at least, to have been the victim of a misunderstanding.

Channel 4 pleads not guilty, claiming that Carling knew that what he said was liable to be transmitted. Other equally distinguished public figures have suffered from similar misunderstandings. The late Nicholas Ridley thought Dominic Lawson of the Spectator had turned the tape recorder off when he chose to make his unkind observations about the Germans. Norman Lamont believed Ginny Dougary of the Times had concluded her interview with him before he gave her his candid opinions about the members of the administration of which he had lately been a member.

Carling is merely the latest in a long line, and will not be the last. The criticism which can be made of him is that he, or his agent, failed to make what happened clear at the outset.

Then again, Easby and his five colleagues failed to apply the principles of natural justice. Not only were they judge in their own - the old farts' - cause. That could not have been avoided. For the RFU is the disciplinary authority. But Carling was not informed of the charges against him and not allowed to make representations on his own behalf.

As Dick Best points out, rugby union has recognised procedures for dealing with those charged with bringing the game into disrepute. These were not followed. And yet three of those who sat on the kangaroo court at the East India Club, are lawyers.

Moreover, if Carling was guilty of anything, it was of what the libel lawyers call "vulgar abuse". Vulgar abuse may be regrettable, but is not defamatory. In this as in other respects, the RFU would have done better to follow the law.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own