Famous philosopher AC Grayling criticises campaign to boycott the Union
World famous philosopher AC Grayling has today criticised a campaign fronted by OUSU Women’s Officer Sarah Pine against the Oxford Union.
Pine, who is campaigning in a personal capacity, had contacted Grayling and asked him to withdraw from his upcoming appearance at the Union in protest at the recent arrest of Union president Ben Sullivan for alleged rape and attempted rape.
Her actions were part of a campaign by Pine and St Hilda’s undergrad Helena Dollimore to persuade thirty upcoming Union speakers to pull out of their appearances as well as calling on Sullivan to resign.
The campaign has been backed by public figures including journalist Laurie Penny and Caroline Criado-Perez and senior Oxford students including OUSU president-elect LJ Trup.
In a letter to Pine, Grayling today criticised the campaign. He said he feels “in a difficult position” as he feels “sympathy with the motivations behind [Pine’s] call”.
He said: “While wishing to support to the full the underlying concerns you have in view, there is the consideration that we have to take seriously that fundamental principle of the rule of law and the rights of individuals, namely, that all those accused of crimes are innocent until proved guilty”.
He added: “I simply cannot, in all conscience, allow myself to act only on the basis of allegations and suspicions, or of conviction by the kangaroo court of opinion, or trial by press – the means too often employed even in our own society to condemn before the evidence and the arguments have been properly examined”.
“Indeed I very much wish that OUSU would be serious about this principle too – asking people to convict and punish someone before due process of law has taken its course is a bad direction to go in, and with great respect I urge you to reflect on that”.
Grayling’s comments come after concern has been raised about the risk of contempt of court and affecting the right to fair trial within the case.
Grayling’s appearance at the Union is due to take place this evening.