That has been the response of the Crown Prosecution Service (the presecution authority in England and Wales) to the latest onslaught on its boss Alison Saunders (Law chief faces new onslaught on Janner, as The Times put it). She has decided not to prosecute the former Labour MP Lord Janner over paedophile allegations.
You can find my thoughts on the language used in Saunders’s first response to criticism of her initial decision https://deceivingus.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/the-evasive-language-of-alison-saunders/
Look now at how her spokesman reacts to a critical letter sent by an all-party group of MPs.http://news.sky.com/story/1469725/letter-urges-prosecution-against-lord-janner
“The DPP (Saunders) was not unduly influenced by anyone when making this decision. As head of the CPS – an independent prosecuting authority – the DPP is used to making difficult decisions and will continue to do so independently.
“The DPP understands concern over inaction against those in positions of power in the past, which is why she has recognised our past failings and initiated an independent review of previous handling of the case.”
First lets look at the phrase: “The DPP (Saunders) was not unduly influenced by anyone…..”
Note the use of the passive which makes it possible to evade identifying who has done the influencing – the phrasing is clever as it initially has you nodding in comfortable agreement.
Then you notice that the stement says “unduly influenced.” In this particular case the DPP should state who has “influenced” Saunders’s decision, rather than cower behind the passive – I find it interesting that the DPP is admitting that she can be influenced but does not feel the need to say who has done the influencing.
Then there is the use of the extraordinary word “unduly,” which means either “without cause or justification,” or “unrightfully, undeservedly” or “to excess, beyond the due degree.” Those words imply a very extreme degree of behaviour and allows an enormous scope for what could be deemed “due” influence.
In other words the phrasing reveals nothing. Look at the gaps that are revealed when you use an active verb and meaningful adverbs.
“???? tried to influence the DPP by stating ABCD to her.” So her spokesman is hiding more than he is stating by using the passive.
Then there is a phrase about “difficult decisions.” Of course she gets the difficult decisions – that is her job. I dont need to be told that again.
Then lets move on to the phrase “understands the concern…” This means absolutely nothing – understanding does not mean agreeing with or accepting – though that is the impression she has tried to leave in earlier statements.
And finally, the CPS has done what so many powerful organisations do – order an investigation into what happened in the past for which the current leadership is not responsible.
This is meaningless to. She was being asked to respond to criticism of her own behaviour – not what was done in the past.
I am not going to guess the intent behind the way Saunders and her team use langauge. I am though certain that the effect of their phrasing is to make them sound less than convincing and extremely evasive. If I was in a jury and heard or read sentences structured like this from a legal professional, I would simply not believe them.