Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Innocent until proven guilty was a blog written in 2015

Not for the first time, the media this morning is full of allegations against senior people. The glee of the witch hunt is in the UK media over anything to do with sexual assault or sexual abuse. This fevered reporting has been going on since the death of Jimmy Saville. Barely a day goes by without some new scandal or alleged cover up of abuse. Mere association is enough to sometimes be dragged through the mire of a newspaper’s indignation. Saville, nor his alleged victims (I know they claim their is no alleged involved) will never have their day in court to legally judge his guilt or innocence. Nor can his reputation be tested with civil proceedings for libel or slander. Instead, redress is being sought through various on-going inquiries which in turn has snared many others. Some will and have been found guilty, others have been cleared. The basic tenant of our legal system is innocent until proven guilty. With all these widespread allegations and smears, it would be wise for the media and in particular newspaper editors to remember that.

As outsiders to this process, we have an interest in hearing of the failures of various authorities to even investigate the allegations. We all believe that the state’s apparatus will be used to at least investigate. From what is public knowledge it is clear that this failed, for several reasons. Disbelief, ignorance, lack of evidence, or conspiracy and cover up may all form part or all of these reasons. Even proposed leaders of one of the proposed inquiries have had to step down for merely knowing one of the politicians involved. Further delay will incur.

I am not a victim, by that very fact I cannot fully understand the pain and grief that victims have gone through. I can sympathise with their plight. I can express anger with the authorities for their failings to investigate properly. I too can be sucked into the maelstrom of accusations and lack of surprise as to who is next.

All this assessment of guilt or innocence, allegation and denial comes on the 800th anniversary of one of the most important documents in English law, if not world law. The Magna Carta was signed at Runnymeade in Berkshire by King John on 15th June AD1215. This date is O.S. For old style as thanks to changes in the Gregorian Calendar the date is 13 days different – Britain only adopted the calendar in 1752 – I do not want to start about numbers and relative dates again! I have to ask when was Christmas Day, Winter Solstice, New Years Day? Even the year was only calculated in the 6th century as we now calculate AD. The method of its calculation is disputed.

The document contains some 63 clauses, many of which confirm the feudal nature of society, and demonstrate that King John was in serious trouble with his barons. Two clauses though are held up as the foundation of the UK’s legal system. (I’ll include Scotland in the UK definition although King John was not King of Scotland. Sorry Scots but you voted to stay in.)

39. No freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or disseized, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way harmed – nor will we go upon or send upon him – save by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

40. To none will we sell, to none deny or delay, right or justice.

Both these clause apply to the current situation. The first is taken to ensure the right of a fair jury trial. The second for the right to justice for all. This is reflected in subsequent legislation including the European Convention on Human Rights and the workings of the International Criminal Court. Unfortunately, in both the current UK and USA we have secret courts in action where this process is denied. In the second, the alleged victims have been denied justice for many years.

To be very cynical, the Magna Carta was not about the rights of the common man. It was about the rights of the privileged few, the monarchy and the aristocracy in the form of the co-signatories King John and the Barons (full list here). Unlike many other nations, Britain does not have a formal written single constitutional document where these rights are listed. Judging from abroad, even where such a document exists (e.g. the USA) most legislation is designed to work around protections provided for the common man (or woman) and create years of legal dispute. For example, the holding without trial of possible enemy combatants in illegal prisons. These prisons deliberately set up outside normal jurisdictions in third-party countries. Then, there is the complicit activity of various other nations in supporting these actions.

Unfortunately, in the sexual abuse cases, Lawrence Inquiries, Hillsborough Inquiry and ongoing counter-terrorism and security service activity, it is apparent that the Magna Cart has failed. The people we have placed in power (the few who bother to vote that is) have decided that Clause 39 does not apply and Clause 40 should be delayed as long as possible.

The problem for our society in the 800th anniversary year is that if victims wish to deny clause 39 for the alleged perpetrators (broadcasting in the media creates the harm) then, they should not be surprised that clause 40 is not implemented. Mud sticks, not all allegations are true. Clauses 39 and 40 are supposed to ensure this does not happen.

We do have a legal system; however, flawed, it is beholden on all of us to uphold both clauses. That means insisting on the rights of victims and the accused; however unpalatable that might be; however heinous the alleged crimes. What is not acceptable is a failure to investigate.

Time For Numbers

Time For Numbers was written in 2014

I have been contemplating numbers and their connection with time for years. What time is it? Do not look at your watch or clock it’s a more fundamental question than that. Recently during the writing of my upcoming Sci-Fi book, The World of Fives, I had to do more than think. I had to calculate and check and that led to more contemplation on the nature of time and numbers. I am not a physicist and I certainly could not express any deep understanding of Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time and it’s ilk. The factual calculations of time, dimensions and particle physics can become exceptionally confusing. Even the concepts and hypothesis espoused are confusing. My own issues concerned why human beings count and have a calendar and clock numbering systems that are the way they are.

For non-Western based societies I will refer to the general calendar in use around the world and the general time system. This means 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, and 365 days in the year (let’s not get into leap years just yet). Then breaking back down to 12 months in a year or 52 weeks of seven days. The question is why these seemingly arbitrary numbers are in use? As I mentioned with the aside on Leap years the Earth does not orbit in 365 days. We correct for the inaccuracy of our counting method. Wikipedia quotes…

“For example, in the Gregorian calendar, each leap year lasts 366 days instead of the usual 365, by extending February to 29 days rather than the common 28 days. Similarly, in the lunisolar Hebrew calendar, Adar Aleph, a 13th lunar month is added seven times every 19 years to the twelve lunar months in its common years to keep its calendar year from drifting through the seasons.”

There are some variations to Leap years for example no 29th Feb every 100 years to correct this inaccuracy and of course the Gregorian calendar only dates to 1582 AD, another arbitrary year based on a possible religious date which is historically disputed. The Chinese and Hebrew calendars are older and adjust leap years differently. Then we have the expired Mayan Calendar – what did happen to the apocalypse?

All this discussion misses the point, why 60 seconds, 60 minutes and why 24 hours? We use base 10 mostly to count probably based on the number of digits on our hands. Why not base 5 or base 8 fingers, or base 20 fingers with thumbs and toes. Base two, binary for computing with hexadecimal base 16 in the mix. The UK used base 12 for currency, pennies in a shilling, then base 20, shillings in a pound, up until decimalisation. Horse racing still uses guineas (21 shillings or £1.05p) to measure prize money or the value of a race horse. Weight measures were even stranger and still are Pound to Kilos then the USA uses a different gallon measurement. No wonder children get confused.

Mathematicians will look at divisors and factors to explain the usefulness of a particular number but that is applying mathematical research to a number that has already chosen. Why 24 hours in the first place? Why not 25 or 20 or 10 or…

Twenty-four has the following factors or divisors 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 24, whereas 10 only has 1, 2, 5 and 10. Twelve or 24 hours clocks have an advantage of an exact third of the time period. Decimal is left with the inexact .333333 recurring. Not that there is an exact third of a year, 4 months? Which 4 months have you chosen was that including February in a leap year? A third of a year in days is 121 and two-thirds days; better in a leap year with 122 days. Financial institutions report in quarters, but that is different for each quarter. With the first quarter not always the first in a year but in a financial year.

There is little point in arguing for a decimal calendar or clock although fractions of a second are normally displayed in decimal, but a half and a quarter are all used. My own conflict came in describing time zones and time concepts. As I write this it is nearly Sunday evening in Sydney Australia yet Sunday morning here in the UK with it’s single time zone. Thanks to imperial history and the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and meridian 0º Latitude now called Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) we have defined time zones for the Earth. Time is managed by exceptionally accurate atomic clocks, which use a variety of techniques to measure the decay of particles or movement of electrons, which are then translated into fractions of a second which… See where I am going with this? We use a physical event to force an arbitrary number called a second and so on. But I skipped over the interesting bit. If you spend your time communicating or travelling with other nations the concept of time zones becomes common. You can easily end up talking to or visiting someone where it is tomorrow, only of course it is not Tomorrow. We are not time travelling, it is the same time only measured differently in each location, to fit another human construct local clocks. So in Sci-Fi ignoring such inconveniences of light speed travel and relative effects, what do next week, last week, tomorrow etc. mean?

If an alien race operates on different counting methodologies, with different length of days, years how would they split the day. What is a day after all? The reference to day can mean different things. Is it 24 hours or the period of daylight or the period between sunrise and sunset? The day light calculation varies with the seasons and the Earth’s solar orbit. On another planet of different size the day may be longer or shorter, the year longer or shorter and perhaps more variable with a more elliptic orbit.

In my Sci-Fi the travelling humans refer back to UTC but have learned to live with the complexities of the impact between, planetary time, Earth time, ship time and another planet’s time. How do you take language terminology for measurements of time, which fill our vocabulary, and even begin to describe what next week means?

Perhaps our exploring ancestors had the same difficulties with native tribes when they explored the Earth. Did the Aztec or Inca pupils complain that they did not know when next week was when the Conquistadors tried to impose their calendar on the natives’ solar calendars? I think they might have had other things on their minds. These calendars were at least based on true alignment with the solar events unlike the western Gregorian calendar. Seasons vary not just north and south but east and west and meteorologically based on weather patterns. The end of the solar year (end being an arbitrary term) should occur with the winter solstice shortest/longest day in northern/southern hemispheres respectively but of course this is not Geo-spatially correct, as the closets and furthest distances from the sun are not coincidental with the solstices. Perihelion was on 4th January 2014 at 11:59 UTC, that was the closest approach to the sun and aphelion the furthest approach is scheduled for 4th July at 00:13 UTC. In 2015 aphelion will be on 6th July at 19:40 UTC but perihelion remains on the 4th January at 06:36 UTC. This cycle varies every 22,000 to 26,000 years. Religious festivals coincidental to any of these dates have very little to do with it. Working time linked to daylight, daylight savings time, working hours are all arbitrary constructs based on historical patterns. As we finally begin to travel into our own solar system we will have to think differently. A lunar colony will have a lunar day and year based on orbits of the Earth and the sun. A Martian day is approximately 2.7% longer than earth. Its year is 686.98 Earth solar days, or 668.5991 sols (variable) so nearly twice as long as Earth. What will the questions how old are you and what time is it mean to future dwellers and explorers?

Now what time is it?