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Leighton Smith: Ben Stokes case a lesson in pre-judging people

Author
Newstalk ZB Staff,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 15 August 2018, 9:29a.m.
Even if you weren’t paying much attention to it, I would imagine there were plenty of people who were surprised to hear this morning he had been found not guilty. (Photo / Getty)

The Ben Stokes story is an interesting one to me for a particular reason, and nothing to do with cricket. Everything to do with crime, being charged, going to court, and people’s reactions, especially the latter.

Think for a moment about Ben Stokes. Picture him in your mind. What’s your impression of him when you look at him? His face, his looks, and what’s your reaction? It’s intriguing.

I have been, shall we say, slightly agitated with people around me saying he’s a nasty piece of work. Guilt written all over his face. Anger written all over his face. 

I have to admit while I didn’t get caught up in it, I sort of had some sympathy for what was being said. He does look a bit unpleasant, he does look a bit agro, and you could imagine him flying off the handle because he’s a sportsman and they get certain reputations across the board because they are physical people.

Even on the field, they have issues, especially off the field. There’s been plenty of them involved in off-field physical activities in public.

Even if you weren’t paying much attention to it, I would imagine there were plenty of people who were surprised to hear this morning he had been found not guilty. A couple of people involved in that fracas said he shouldn’t have been in court in the first place.

And yet there is this guy who has a very unpleasant look about him, a very angry look, and you can see it, you can imagine it.

Not guilty.

What does that say, what does it tell us? Books, covers, what?

I’m one who always has argued that you're entitled to judge a person by their appearance.

I’m not talking about ordinary people, I’m talking about people who may have a threatening look about them, like a gang member.

The old argument is your walking down the street and there’s this hulking great gang member coming towards you.

It is not unwise to cross the street. It’s a natural instinct, and it’s not unwise to do so. Is it anything else? No. It might even be common sense.

Would you walk past people like that and looking them in the eye?

The point I’m trying to make is that we are wise to make judgements, but in this particular case it was a wrong judgement. I might have to dip my toe in the water in that regard.

You could imagine Ben Stokes being violent in those circumstances, and the fact that he was charged and taken to court in the first place is indicative of the fact that this is where this guy is at.

You might argue that the jury was sympathetic to him as he’s a sportsman and he represents England. You could say it’s a jury sympathetic decision.

I don’t think so. I think the evidence was given, the prosecution had its day, and they lost.

 

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