Azeem Rafiq racism case: Public inquiry needed for justice to prevail for all - Chris Waters

AZEEM RAFIQ made an excellent point, in my estimation, when responding to the news that Yorkshire and “a number of individuals” have been charged by the England and Wales Cricket Board in relation to the racism crisis.

In a statement issued by Powerscourt, his PR people, Rafiq said: “My preference would be for the hearing to take place publicly, but I am hopeful that we are at least nearing a point where there will be some sense of closure for my family and me.”

The idea that the hearing, or hearings, slated for September and October, could be heard in public is, alas, unrealistic due to legal reasons (the ECB investigation is not a judicial process). But Rafiq is right and deserves to be heard – so much so, the time has surely come for a full-blown, statutory public inquiry into the matter, to be chaired by a judge or retired judge, so that all the evidence can be brought into the public domain and enjoy the protection of legal privilege.

It is the only way that Rafiq can get the absolute closure that he craves and the only way, too, that those who believe their reputations have been unfairly damaged can have their say.

Azeem Rafiq deserves justice that a public inquiry will give him (Picture: PA)

In short, justice for all without fear or favour. Rafiq could, with his public platform, push for this himself.

For the matter has been so serious, so important for the game and for sport in this country to be left in the inexpert hands of Yorkshire and the ECB. It needs total disclosure and a full, impartial investigation into what has gone on and then action taken.

Of course, in the interests of such total scope and transparency, a statutory inquiry would necessarily need to look at everything and everyone including, by definition, the ECB itself; the DCMS; those acting for Rafiq and also the accused; Yorkshire staff, officials and players – past and present; Barnsley CC (Rafiq’s former club); the Professional Cricketers’ Association; journalists; lawyers, you name it. No stone would – or indeed should – be left unturned.

Such an inquiry would have to be commissioned by a government minister and would compel testimony and the release of other forms of evidence that would otherwise be unseen. Then, and only then, would we have a completely satisfactory conclusion to a shambolically handled process and the confidence that justice has not only been done, but been seen to be done.

A cloud has hung over Headingley, venue for the third LV= Insurance Test Series Match this week. (Picture: PA)

I say this not only in the interests of fairness to Rafiq and all concerned, for there is an awful lot at stake for an awful lot of people, but in the firm belief that the two investigations so far have been anything but sound.

As the Yorkshire one had no judicial authority either and was unable to oblige people to take part, with little by way of cross-examination or coherent investigation from what I’ve seen, it was deeply flawed as all sides have acknowledged and inadequate for an issue as momentous as racism.

The ECB investigation is, in my submission, equally defective and open to similar accusations of a conflict of interest. How can it be right that the ECB – itself accused of institutional racism by the former umpires John Holder and Ismail Dawood – is the judge and jury in its own court any more than it was right for Yorkshire? Conclusions reached by the ECB are themselves unreliable.

Rafiq has stated that he wants everything to be played out in the public square and I agree with him whole-heartedly.

Yorkshire chairman Lord Patel at the Test match at Headingley this week (Picture: PA)

The government should accede to his wish and establish a public inquiry without delay to examine every shred of evidence related to the case.