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Conrad Black’s name is at last being cleared

But his enemies here will never accept his vindication, whatever the US Supreme Court says

By on Thursday, 22 July 2010

Conrad Black is routinely described by the BBC as "disgraced" even though his conviction is likely to be set aside (Photo: PA)

Conrad Black is routinely described by the BBC as "disgraced" even though his conviction is likely to be set aside (Photo: PA)

Conrad Black is now free, and though he must return to court to hear his appeal against conviction on three charges of fraud heard again, the likelihood is that he will never return to prison. One Chicago lawyer, who had followed Lord Black’s case, said: “One of the elements of being entitled to bail on appeal is that you’re likely to win.”

The fact is that he would not have been found guilty in any other country in the world. His conviction was undoubtedly part of a highly political response to a public mood of hysteria against “fat cats” in the wake of the multibillion Enron scandal, and he was condemned under a vague catch-all law (of which some of the Supreme Court Justices who heard Lord Black’s case were openly contemptuous), which the Wall Street Journal described as “the kitchen-sink charge against politicians and executives when [prosecutors are] worried that they can’t make more specific allegations stick”. The paper went on to comment: “The Black reversal is another blot on US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who has previously abused legal process…”

I have always believed (having followed his trial in 2007 day by day) that Conrad Black is and was an honourable man and that his imprisonment was a gross miscarriage of justice. I have, as many readers will know, an interest to declare: I was appointed by Conrad Black personally as editor of this newspaper, and he consistently, especially in my early years, defended my editorial independence against attacks on it from without and within.

But my belief (and that of many others) that this was an injustice has now been confirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States of America: it can no longer be seen as the personal prejudice of those who know and admire him.

Despite all this, his enemies in this country persist in speaking of him as though he were an undoubted criminal whose clever lawyers have found some ingenious legal technicality on which to be released. In its news stories about his release on bail, for instance, the BBC has consistently referred to him as the “disgraced peer” or the “disgraced press baron” Lord Black of Coldharbour (getting in a sneer at his resonant title as it expresses scepticism about his vindication).

The fact is that “disgraced” is a wholly inappropriate word to use about someone whose convictions are under active review and who is likely to have them finally and without reservation set aside. I think that the BBC’s coverage of Lord Black’s release disgraces the BBC; and that it is yet another little sliver of evidence for the subterranean existence of the heaving morass of hidden, and often half-conscious, assumptions which underlie all its supposedly “impartial” reporting of the world we live in.

  • Jules

    Like Brits abroad who are always innocent in the tabloids, Catholics in the Herald must be too. Obv.

  • Etoc2001

    Agree – just as some Legion of Mary types believe that a priest couldn't be a paedophile 'because he's a priest' William oddie believes that Conrad Black did no wrong despite diverting millions belonging to Hollinger into his own pockets. He might be able to persuade himself that it isn't wrong [even if it is legal] but it won't persuade me

  • larry sweeney

    Conrad Black has been treated in the most grotesque manner by the US Judicial authorities.An employee who went to a ball game on his employer”s time would have fallen foul of this crazy “honest services”law.This is exactly what the USSC court stated.IF there is no fraud how could the obstruction charge stand alone.I agree with the sentiments of this paper to call Conrad Black “disgraced” is wrong and unjust.It is the judicial system of the US that is a disgrace.Let us remind ourselves that it is to this jurisdiction that the UK extradites it”s citizens without proof of any prima facia case.Conrad Black has fought a long hard battle and exposed a flawed system.We wish him well.Larry Sweeney

  • David .W Rothschild

    Could not have said it better. Thank you !