This year, Rye Arts Festival has a brush with the law. In fact, a number of close encounters of the legal kind! But they’re all good, in that a number of knowledgeable, influential and entertaining speakers has been lined up between September 15-30 by the organisers with crime and punishment being a theme of their talks.
Serial killers have a fascination for many, and for Paul Harrison they have become a life’s work. On Friday, September 21 he will be talking at 3pm in the Methodist church about this subject. And he talks with the authority born of a great depth of experience of murderers – indeed, he has worked closely with 100 of their number, trying to find out what makes them do unimaginably horrible things.
And Paul’s reputation is international, since he was one of the very first UK police officers to work closely with the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit in Virginia, so we can expect some UK versus US comparisons. Paul also writes and has penned over 100 books, most of which are about true crime. But he turned his hand to fiction too, and his novel Chasing Monsters is the first in a series of planned books featuring detective Will Scott.
While Paul concentrates largely on the minds of criminals and what makes them do what the right-thinking public couldn’t contemplate, the Festival is delighted to welcome Professor John Cooper QC who is concerned about the justice system. On Saturday, September 29 at 3pm in the Methodist church, John will give a talk called Blunted Sword and Broken Scales.
It is often stated and has become a truth that this country’s criminal justice system is the best in the world. This is no doubt based upon the belief that all of us are innocent until proven guilty and that the jury is still, as Lord Devlin once called it in 1956, “the lamp that shows that freedom lives”.
But 1956 was a long time ago.
John Cooper maintains that over the last three decades, successive governments, backed enthusiastically by the judiciary, have diluted the rights of the accused in a criminal trial, to the extent that the defence are now even obliged to warn the prosecution in advance if the prosecution case has any weaknesses and disclosure of evidence to a defendant becomes a lottery.
The criminal trial, designed to consider the evidence of the state against an accused, has now disproportionately reinvented itself into a victim focussed exercise and John warns that we are sleepwalking into the incremental abolition of the jury.
John is a very high-profile barrister whose work represents some of the most important cases of the last 20 years, which include the judicial reviews into the death of government weapons inspector, Dr David Kelly, the Deepcut Barracks deaths, the challenge to the government’s deal with the DUP and a range of public protest work, from representing the occupiers outside St Paul’s cathedral to badger culls and anti-fracking cases.
He presently represents the Labour councillors in relation to the Grenfell Fire and has appeared at many inquests and proceedings for bereaved military families, including the Hercules, Puma and Nimrod explosions.
John has written a number of major textbooks, and for television and theatre. He wrote a column for The Times for 10 years, as well as being a regular broadcaster on television and radio.
On the face of it, Grahame Lloyd’s talk at the Mermaid on Monday September 24 about the fateful over in 1968 when the brilliant West Indian Garry Sobers became the first ever first-class cricketer to hit six sixes in one over has little to do with the law. After all, the BBC were there and recorded the event for posterity. But Grahame has uncovered something that wasn’t quite right. Namely the ball, which was auctioned in 2006 as “the ball used in the over” and fetched a record £26,400 at Christie’s. But was it the right one? On sale again in 2012, the plot thickened. Where will it end? In court? Who knows, but it is all a bit fishy! Come and listen to a disturbing tale of fake news and a whodunnit – but with a ball instead of a body.
For the full list of events, and to book tickets, go to www.ryeartsfestival.org.uk . Otherwise ring the Box Office on 01797 224442 or pop into Phillips & Stubbs in the mornings Monday to Friday. Brochures are available from the Box office plus dozens of shops, hotels, hostelries and so on in and around Rye.
Photos: Rye Arts Festival, cricket ball: The Independent