Clive Stafford Smith: "Now and again I do get death threats"
My weeks are very varied. I was in Germany yesterday to meet pharmaceutical representatives about how to prevent life-saving drugs being used for executions in the US. We found people who were vastly more sympathetic to human rights than US judges.
Last week I was writing a brief for an appeal of a British guy facing the death penalty in Indonesia. We had to translate the documents from Indonesian to find out what the hell they said. Then we had to write the brief and translate it back into Indonesian so they can read it. We never have enough translators. Paying for professional translators is difficult because we don’t have that sort of money.
It’s a commute of 19 steps to my office in the morning. I work from home. I have a little three-year-old and it’s wonderful to be able to spend so much time with him.
Tomorrow, the Mapperton Marauders cricket team, for whom I’m the past-my-prime opening bowler, are playing at Broadwindsor in a very important game that clearly should be on BBC One. I’m holding it against the British meteorological system that we’ve lost out on so many games this season with the weather.
Today I was pleased to see that what the more junior people at Reprieve are paid is commensurate with most other NGOs. I’m equally pleased that the senior people there – including myself – are paid vastly less than people in a similar position at other NGOs. We have a rule that the highest-paid person cannot get more than a third more than the lowest-paid person, which I think the entire world should have. Particularly Barclays.
Every now and again I do get death threats, but frankly I don’t take it very seriously. The threats I do worry about are when the US government starts telling me that, for representing Guantanamo Bay prisoners, I could face prison. They have power and can do very ugly things. Guantanamo will close eventually. It’s a sad commentary on the balls the Obama administration has dropped that, when they came in, 65 per cent of Americans thought Guantanamo was evil and should be closed, whereas today 65 per cent think it should remain open. When the history books are written, we’re not going to be proud of this moment – just as we are not proud of burning witches at the stake.
The only people I would never represent is those with money. I don’t see the point – they can go to someone else. I’ve represented lots of guilty people. If the only thing any of us knew about an individual was the worst act that he or she had ever committed, we’d hate everybody.
To find out more about Reprieve or to make a donation to the charity, go to: www.reprieve.org.uk
Illustration: Matt Hollings