11 Jan 2013

Water under the bridge for Green and Grieve?

It’s nice when the national press picks up your reports, even if they are 35 years too late. There’s been much comment in the papers this week about an article I wrote in 1977 for the Oxford university newspaper Cherwell.  

It was about a late-night incident when a bunch of drunken rowdies from Magdalen College threw the current Police Minister Damian Green off Magdalen Bridge into the River Cherwell.

Student high jinks, perhaps, but a pretty serious, as Green fell about 12 feet into only a few inches of water, and he claimed afterwards that he could easily have been impaled on some nearby “rusty railings”.

Green, who was that term’s president of the Oxford Union, was a member of Balliol College, who were long-standing rivals to Magdalen in Oxford University politics (especially Tory politics).

What makes the story interesting for today’s audience is that among the Magdalen students involved was Dominic Grieve, who is now, of course, the attorney-general, and a close ministerial colleague of Green.

I reported for Cherwell that Grieve was one of six Magdalen students who were expelled from the union over the incident.  Grieve, rather  ludicrously, said that the suspension was wrong because it prevented him from apologising to Green.

As to whether Grieve was actually one of the physical assailants, I rather doubt it.  It wouldn’t be in character.  My understanding is that he was merely a bystander.

Both men this week have refused to make any comment about the episode, but Damian Green has told people in the past that Dominic Grieve was, in fact, the only Magdalen person at the scene who came and expressed concern afterwards as to whether he was badly hurt.

So in a way Dominic Grieve emerges from the story quite well, and seems to be off the hook.

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper.

For even if Grieve was present as a bystander, he doesn’t seem to have intervened to try and stop it happening.

And under the highly controversial law of joint enterprise, you can be prosecuted for being part of a gang at the scene of a crime, even if you yourself didn’t take part in committing the actual crime.

And increasingly nowadays many people are being prosecuted under joint enterprise, including, famously, teenagers who happen to present when terrible knife crimes are committed.

Next time somebody interviews Dominic Grieve about the possible failings of joint enterprise, they might like to ask whether the attorney-general should have been prosecuted under joint enterprise for what was clearly a serious assault against the police minister.

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One reader comment

  1. Daniel Olive says:

    Isn’t a requirement of joint enterprise that they agree to commit, and set out to commit, a crime together? Is there any evidence that they were committing some crime Grieve was a party to when the incident happened?

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