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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game