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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Chris Cairns' match-fixing trial by media

It has not been an enjoyable 24 hours or so for the former New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns. In 2012 he won a major High Court action for libel against Lalit Modi over match-fixing allegations which Modi had made on Twitter.  I have considered the case at some length in my forthcoming book Court & Bowled (available from the publishers here or on Amazon here).

After the trial, and his successful defence of Modi's appeal against the damages award, Cairns would presumably have considered himself free of all match-fixing suspicion.  In recent days, however, it has emerged that his former teammate Lou Vincent has made very serious match-fixing allegations against Cairns, initially reported to be part of a plea bargain with the ICC, though it has since emerged that no plea bargain was made by Vincent.

Cairns has strongly denied the allegations, but to add greatly to his worries, it has just emerged that other statements to the ICC implicating him have been made by Vincent's ex-wife and by the New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum.  The New Zealand Herald reports:

"New Zealand Cricket reacted angrily to the leak of McCullum's testimony.
New Zealand Cricket is dismayed that Brendon McCullum's testimony to the International Cricket Council has been leaked to the media," the board said in a statement. "We can confirm that Brendon is not under investigation by the ICC and his testimony has actually been applauded by them. NZC has 100% confidence in our captain and his role in tackling corruption."
On the face of it, things look bleak for Cairns.  Vincent might be viewed with a degree of suspicion (update: he has since been charged by the ECB, and has said there is no plea bargain). His ex-wife (who has not been implicated in anything) is another matter, however, and McCullum as well.  McCullum, as New Zealand Cricket states, is entirely free from suspicion, and with a very good reputation in world cricket.  On the strength of his word, it would seem that there is a case for Cairns to answer.

But that is the point - so far we have nothing more than allegations, to which Cairns will in all likelihood have to answer in some form or another.  There has been no court case or disciplinary hearing.  Cairns has not had any chance to see the allegations against him in full, nor to put forward a considered response.  He is therefore innocent (not that he has even been charged with anything) until proven guilty.  So far there has been nothing more than trial by media, thanks to the appalling leaks, which have necessarily been very damaging for Cairns.

Although we cannot know, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that the leaks were other than deliberate, with the express purpose of destroying Cairns without the bother of a trial or disciplinary hearing in an independent tribunal with all parties represented and with full disclosure beforehand.

If Cairns is innocent, he has been disgracefully traduced.  If Cairns is guilty, he has been denied the due process that is the right of all in a free society under the Rule of Law.  Either way, his chance of receiving a fair trial with the presumption of innocence has been reduced. One hopes the ICC will treat the leak as seriously as the match-fixing allegations themselves, for its credibility depends on it being seen to be impartial and competent. Moreover, other players will be reluctant to come forward with information if their confidentiality cannot be protected.  Brendon McCullum's lawyer has already expressed anger that his client's statement was leaked.  For those reasons, the fact of the leaks is just as damaging to justice as their content.

UPDATE (30 May): Here is a report of Cairns' statement to the media following his trip to London to meet ICC investigators.

UPDATE (September) It has been confirmed that Cairns will stand trial for perjury.  This will enable a proper trial with witnesses and full disclosure.  Cairns has stated that he will plead not guilty and that he emphatically denies the allegations.  I shall continue to follow the proceedings and continue to post updates and comment on this blog.


  1. Couldn't disagree more - that the leaks are 'as damaging to justice' or that you hope the ICC treat the leaks as seriously as the allegations themselves.

    I'll grant you that the leaks are a blight on a murky situation, but let's go back to the start. If match fixing didn't happen - there would be no complaints, no allegations, no trials, and no leaks.

    If they did happen - they need to be dealt with. Perhaps the way in which they've been dealt with is poor, but it's the culprits who have been involved in the fixing that is the heart of the issue.

    Cairns if innocent - has nothing to fear, and simply has to keep denying the claims, as he can surely prove that he was never behind any of the allegations his comrades suggest he was.

    If he's guilty - he's a clown and he should go to prison for not only conducting himself in a very unprofessional way years ago - but for continuing the circus now.

    He knows if he asked someone to cheat - just as that person knows if he was asked to cheat, by Cairns.

    One of them will be proven right, the other will have a lot of egg on his face.

    1. As an onlooker I respect the tenant of innocent until proven guilty.
      I am also a realist who has endured the likes of the Lance Armstrong saga.

      When enough people call a spade it usually is a spade. I wish it were not so because I am a cricket lover. If a Judge were deciding this case, so far it is the word of 5 against one which meets the legal definition of more probable than not. Although there have been leaks, Mr Cairns who has also used the media has been unable to offer any rationale explanation why 5 others would implicate him.

      Although slow, I think the English Police and ICC have played a fairly cunning hand by letting certain parties cook under pressure, which has been revealing.

    2. Well it's the first time I've heard the ICC being called "cunning".

      The fact they've been sitting on evidence for years now (in the case of mccullum's testimony) is not encouraging.

      Actually there is no indication how a legal trial would pan out - there would be many more witnesses called, and all would be subject to cross examination. So, as I said, presume innocence, but it is high time the authorities got on and pressed charges or otherwise concluded their investigation. Cairns hasn't played for years so I can't see what they're waiting for - either declare case closed or charge him

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. you are a brave soul- ANONYMOUS- serious accusation of guilty of cheating, but not prepared to put your name to your comment.

  3. Of course it is the cheaters - players, bookies, 'fixers' who are the heart of the problem. In order to stamp it out, though, there needs to be an efficient and professional performance by the ACSU. Otherwise, it is like writing off police failures by saying if there was no crime, no-one would care about the police.

    The leaks are most damaging for this reason: if a junior player is approached by a senior player and asked/threatened to get in on a fix, you would hope that they would report that immediately. If there's a risk their report will be leaked, they are much less likely to do it. It is like the police leaking crime hotlines - no-one is likely to report their neighbour for being a gangster if the police might leak that to the papers. And if no-one is prepared to report this sort of thing, then it will never be stamped out.

  4. Incidentally I have removed a comment as it was seriously libelous. It was also made anonymously. I suggest if the person who made it does have information proving guilt, then they should forward it to the relevant authorities. If they don't have any evidence, then it rather proves the point about trial by media.

  5. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a lovely legal term - appropriate gor court rooms, lawyers , Judges and jurys. But we the public are entitled to process the information we have, judge, report and speak freely- its only natural.

    Of coarse we all know there is a legal process to take place and evidence to be considered, and a verdict to be delivered ... but for now we are free to judge for ourselves. And if in the end all this comes to nothing and Cairns is innocent - then that news will be as big. I norice Cairns was happy to court public opinion and utilise the media during and after his litigation with Modi. I'm also sure if there was evidence to support Cairns position then that would be as sensational to the media as the information we have now that damns him. √Źnnocent until proven guilty" is as appicable in this case as "where theres smoke theres fire"and "me thinks thou doth protest too much:

  6. Jeff, many thanks for your comment. If you'd seen some of the comments I've had to reject or delete, you'd understand why I stressed the 'innocent till proven guilty' line!

    I don't dispute the media's right to run this stuff - it's dynamite for them - and in fairness I don't think Cairns has objected as such either, subject to asking them to respect his privacy by not banging on his door incessantly.

    The problem is twofold: (i) enough media coverage will prejudice a fair trial; and (ii) much more importantly, the competency of the ICC is seriously under question in two respects (a) they seem to have sat on complaints for years without bringing proceedings, and (b) of course leaking the information as well, which is very damaging to their credibility, prejudicing the individuals concerned, and discouraging anyone else to come forward since they can't be assured the ICC will protect the information and deal with it properly.