If you try to take a good man's, and a very honest man's, good name away from him for no purpose higher than selling newspapers, then he has nothing.
Earlier this evening, I had cause to reply to an email from a very good friend of mine named Paul McConville. Amongst his many other attributes, Paul stands at least six foot six inches tall, which is why I will hereinafter refer to him by my usual diminutive of 'The Big Lad'. Paul is not only a very good friend - he did me the singular honour of acting as my best man at my wedding.
Over the past 12 months, the big lad has run into some business problems, which have unfortunately resulted in him being sequestrated. However, he wasn't just in any business, no, no, no. He was a solicitor in Scotland, you see, one of that caste of unfortunates for whom bankruptcy and business problems always seem to be associated with dishonesty.
Yesterday's 'Scotland on Sunday' carried what can only be described as a hatchet piece on my friend. Paul apparently lives in 'a semi-detached house'. I know this; I've eaten dinner in it. What on God's earth are he and his family supposed to live in - tents? This is what passes for journalism in Scotland in 2010? Where is William Howard Russell when you need him?
And there is, of course, the classic passive mudslinging of Strathclyde Police. It upsets me to think how upset Paul will have been at reading what they have said. Glasgow's finest (or so some of them seem to think) have been reported as saying that, in the matter of the firm of Messrs. McConville O' Neill, Solicitors, requiring to cease trading, they have been "unable to find evidence of criminality".
There's a very good reason for this. The Big Lad's not a crook. He's one of the most honest people I've ever met. If anyone had bothered to ask me, I could have told them that. He's also one of the most kind. On both of the occasions when Tourette's Syndrome has rendered me unable to perform to the high and severe standards required of a solicitor in Scotland, events separated in time by 10 years, the big lad has been the only constant professional friend I have had, one who, for my part, is now a firm personal friend. That kind of personal constancy is not found amongst the kind of person who steals money from miners' relicts.
And, of course, there is the obligatory Greek chorus of his former clients, or, perhaps more properly, the clients of his former practice. I have no idea how he did business, but after several readings of 'Scotland on Sunday's' piece it seems to me that some of them would not have known they had any right to claim unless he'd told them. If true, I hope they remember that. I am, of course, deeply sceptical of the British newspaper business; anyone who has read John Pilger's books 'Hidden Agendas' and 'Tell Me No Lies' cannot be anything but sceptical about it. But 'Scotland on Sunday', an entity which really serves no higher purpose than to help sell classic cars in Prestonpans or timeshares in Gairloch (at times like this, Orwell's analysis of the amount of advertising that appeared on a newspaper's front page in 1940 springs to mind), thinks he should be thrown to the wolves. There may come a time when this happens, but hopefully not while I at least have hands to type, nor possess the means to buy electricity.
I would have left the whole thing alone, and looked forward to seeing the big lad and his family at a gathering of my family at which he will be an honoured guest, if it hadn't been for this. Mention of this matter in the solicitors' professional journal was unnecessary. It serves no point, other than to give its editors the chance to print the name 'McConville'. Paul has been sequestrated. To the best of my knowledge and belief, this means that his practising certificate has already been suspended (again, you wouldn't know that the nature of his current professional suspension could be entirely technical if all you read was 'Scotland on Sunday') . He has not, indeed it seems he will not, be convicted of any crime; there is a very good reason for this, which is that he's not a crook. At this stage, he does not seem to have been found 'guilty' of any non-technical breach of professional discipline. Paul has enough troubles to deal with right now, and I hope he knows his friends will do whatever they can to help him. He doesn't need a professional journal gawping at him. He's already had his photo taken at his door, that perpetual bait to the prurient and salve to the salacious. For the journal of his professional brethren, for his professional journal, to do this to him is overkill.
Labels: Civil Liberties In Scotland