Hold the front page!! The final denouement to the long running Max Clifford and Constance Briscoe trials came to pass on the same day. Friday 2nd May 2014. The king of spin Max Clifford was unable to spin himself out of an 8 year sentence for serious sexual misdemeanours spanning over 35 years, whilst Barrister, part-time Judge, Recorder and Author Constance Briscoe got a 16 month sentence for perjury in the Chris and Vicky Huhne speeding fine case.
Chris and Vicky Huhne received 8 months each in 2013. Whilst all four lead vastly differently lives and follow completely different careers, perhaps the one thing that unites most of the four is their highly educated status. As Judge Baker pointedly remarked when finding Constance Briscoe guilty, educated people are not above the law. Perhaps all four thought the law was for the “little people” and did not apply to them. How wrong they were.
For Constance Briscoe it is a very sad end to her legal career. All those years of academic study, sacrifice and hard graft thrown away. For what exactly? It makes no sense whatsoever. If it was about tipping off the press re Chris Huhne and helping her friend Vicky Huhne get one over on her ex, she could have just passed on her press contacts or simply advised Vicky which papers to contact and given her some solid legal advice and kept well out of it. There was no need to get stupidly entangled in such a web of lies and deception.
Questions are now of course being raised about the veracity of her best selling book ‘Ugly’. Claims are being revived (from 2008) that she falsified GP notes re physical abuse said to have been suffered at the hands of her mother. Criminal cases she’s worked on may end of being reviewed in the light of the verdict and the loss of trustworthiness in her.
I have a particular interest in this case, as Constance Briscoe provided Tiemo Talk of the Town with one of their best and most popular talks back in 2006. The ‘Ugly’ talk starring Constance Briscoe focused on the child hood abuse detailed in her book. It was extremely well received and truly opened up a can of worms regarding the issue of wide spread child abuse.
Constance Briscoe has been exposed as a judge lacking judgement. Not good. Why? To answer this we need to go right back to her upbringing. I don’t doubt she was cruelly abused as I just cannot believe her book was just a work of fiction. Some have always thought that elements have been, as Journalist Andrew Gillingham might say, “sexed up”, but whether or not that’s true, I believe the essence of the book to be true.
Her mother Carmen Briscoe Mitchell was in court throughout this trial. As far as I’m aware, the two don’t speak so why was she there? Clearly not to support her daughter. Her post sentencing comment: “You mustn’t break the rules” pretty much confirms her reason for attending.
Clearly there is un-resolved mother-daughter conflict. Maybe neither want’s them resolved. Constance’s plastic surgery over the past decade – to slim her lips, straighten her nose, narrow her feet, remove eye bags and whiten her teeth etc… all highlight a woman still scarred by her mother’s “you’re ugly” taunts. Forget that she’s a well educated, high achieving judge. That doesn’t mean a thing as the child hood scars are still there alright. The academia and career were perhaps just a front to deal with the past.
This extends to the men in her life too. It’s pretty unusual to see a Black woman dating a white man 20 years her senior. That was the age gap in her relationship with Anthony Aldridge QC. She’s on record as saying she doesn’t like West Indian women of a certain age (her mum’s age group – 80) and I daresay this extends to men and perhaps women in her peer group too. Reading her book, you get a sense she felt let down by her absentee father and the step father who allowed Carmen Briscoe Mitchell’s abuse to go un-checked. Perhaps for this reason she has deliberately dated men far removed from those, women in her peer group and racial background would typically date.
If she hasn’t yet had counselling or psychotherapy, I think she could strongly benefit from it. If she has and it hasn’t worked, perhaps she needs to try someone else.
Fallen role model
For many young people and aspiring legal eagles Constance would have been a role model. For sure, she is a fallen role model now. However, it is important never to forget it was no easy journey for a Black girl from South London to get into Newcastle University, primarily self-financed due to lack of backing from her parents, then to go on to become a successful Barrister, part-time Judge and Recorder. I think people can still take positive lessons from the hard work, determination and single mindedness to achieve her dreams and not allow a miserable child hood to break her. Constance may be perceived to be a fallen role model now, but one can still perceive her as a ‘goal model’ to coin a phrase from Dr Lez Henry, that suggests we are better off focusing on the qualities a person possesses that enables them to achieve success, rather than overly and solely focusing on ‘the person’.
Some will say she has embarrassed herself, her family and wider Black community. It’s hard to argue against that really. She was one of the few part-time Judges of African-Caribbean ethnicity. As a Judge and Barrister regardless of colour, there was an extra onus on her to uphold the law and live to higher standards than the rest of society. She hasn’t done so, which is embarrassing and a major let down. There’s no getting away from the tremendous feeling of disappointment at that.
Much of the above sentiment applies to Max Clifford, superstar PR guru, who has also embarrassed and hugely let down his wife, family, clients and wider public who looked up to him, not to mention younger people who aspired to be a PR guru like him.
I do have an issue with his trial though. Hugely distasteful and revolting as his crimes are, they’re such a long time ago, it seems rather odd and somewhat vindictive for grown women to be coming forward with allegations going back many decades ago. In one case, from 35 years ago. Why now, why not at the 25, 15 or 5 year mark?
Max Clifford and Constance Briscoe will find the change from a very high standard of living to prison slumber sobering and very hard to adjust to. Doubtless they will feel bitter and resentful for quite some time. However, they may take some succour from the fallen star model a la Jonathan Aitkin, Lord Archer, Lord Taylor, Vicky Huhne who have demonstrated that high flyers that find themselves in prison can be rehabilitated back into society.
Who knows, once they have gotten over feeling hard done by and start to think of others, whilst inside there may be a chance them to help their fellow prisoners in a positive way that may help reduce the chances of some of them re-offending and ending up inside again. For instance, with literacy rates being extremely low amongst prisoners and being a prime factor behind high re-offending rates, perhaps the likes of Max and Constance can help their fellow inmates with reading, writing and arithmetic, such that their “colleagues” are better equipped to gain an education and/or earn an honest living upon their release.
With respect to Constance, it is quite something that a woman more used to putting people inside, is now inside herself. Who knows, maybe she will write a book about her experiences or contribute to the debate about prison life with her own insider’s perspective. Maybe sex mad Max will find new clients inside and help them “spin” their way back into society once released. Recruitment Officers beware of CV’s that explain gaps on CV’s thus, “eight years spent in solitary meditation trying to find oneself!”
© Review and photographs – Tiemo Talk of the Town