I’m interested in the rights and wrongs of the FIA offering immunity from prosecution to Nelson Piquet and Pat Symonds – but not to Flavio Briatore – in the Singapore crash investigation.
I spoke to a London litigation lawyer this evening and he said that the key points here are that 1) this is not a case in the criminal courts, where, in the UK at least, plea bargaining is not really done. It is subject to the rules of the FIA. I don’t know what it says in the rules on disciplinary hearings and whether it says in there that the FIA has the right to offer plea bargains, but I will look into it; 2) were the FIA onto something anyway when Piquet gave his evidence, in other words did he go to them or did they quiz him first? The history we’ve seen so far seems to suggest that the Piquets started this, in other words the FIA was not on to them. As for offering Symonds immunity, is his offer of immunity to get at the truth generally or specifically to incriminate Briatore, in other words on what terms has Pat been given this immunity?
Offering immunity worked in the case of the Harlequins rugby player who was ordered to fake a blood injury in order to get a specialist kicker onto the pitch. The FIA will have taken note of this.
Earlier today I asked one of our regular readers, Harveyeight, who is an ex CID policeman, to give me his views on the whys and wherefores of granting immunity from prosecution in the Renault case to Nelson Piquet and Pat Symonds.
He has been involved in a lot of investigations and interviews of suspects in the real world and, as someone who has that experience, but is also clearly passionate about F1, I was interested in his view. Here it is:
“My instinct is to say that if you can’t trust anyone to tell the truth without inducements you can’t trust them to tell the truth.
The FIA do not have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, as explained by Werewolf. So we have the threshold of the balance of probabilities. It you can’t reach that without some kind of prepayment then your case must be pretty weak.
Further, the FIA has protection against a duff decision built-in to the law. To go into pope mode and grant forgiveness of sins without repentance seems an abuse of the protection.
The penalty for Flav, the sponsors, Renault itself and, as you pointed out, the Renault workers, is severe. The decision must be 100% certain. Anything else is a betrayal of the FIA’s responsibility. The innocent victims in all of this cannot be seen as collateral damage.
Further, and this is a personal moral stance I know, ignoring all the political implications which the FIA must have cognisance of, if three people have conspired then they should all be punished.
I had a hero, a detective sergeant who criticised me for my long interviews in order to obtain confessions. He said: If you can’t prove it without a cough, you shouldn’t try and prove it with. It was easy for him because he was a real thieftaker. But the premise is a good one.
Many people have suffered in this matter already. Heaven knows what is going through the minds of the team workers and their families. How will they feel after, perhaps, losing their houses, their kids education, their holidays and their security to see Piquet walk free and back to his life of indulgent luxury? SBS CEO anyone?
I know life is not fair but the FIA have treated Piquet as some kind of hero for, if he is to be believed, keeping stum about the incident for 12 months and then, when galvanised into action by his sacking, eventually got daddy to go to the FIA. Some hero. But some reward, eh?
My personal experience of those offered some kind of deal – never immunity at my level – is that they remain selective in their memory. Informants are one thing, co-conspirators are another. My belief always was that they started lying for their mates and ended up lying against them. Either way, not to be trusted.
You suggest in your question that they are being given immunity for the truth. That’s not quite correct. They are being given immunity for saying what the prosecution wants to hear. A difference, and not a subtle one. Piquet is not an insider, giving evidence against those for whom he worked. This is against, if he is to be believed, those who conspired with him.
So to be rather Micawberish, in short I don’t trust evidence gained by absolution. But, as importantly, if Piquet and Pat have conspired, they should be punished. And severely.”