The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

When The Media Fail

Posted by The Futility Monster on March 8, 2010 @ 11:38

The latest developments in the Jon Venables story are extremely worrying. Not because of the “alleged” allegations spiralling around the media, courtesy of gutter Sunday press, but because I’ve just watched Sky News and witnessed Dominic Grieve, Shadow Justice Secretary, being drawn into the row in a disappointing way.

Dominic Grieve is probably one of my favourite Conservative politicians. He is cool, rational and utterly logical. A staunch defender of liberty and freedoms, winning all the arguments regarding ID cards and Gordon Brown’s pitiful attempts to extend detention without trial to 42 days with breathtaking ease.

He is no populist.

That is, until now.

He has just given an interview in which he basically demanded Jack Straw comes to the Commons with a statement forthwith to “clarify” the issues involved.

Wrong move.

The endless speculation in the papers is a terrible thing to begin with. We seem to be reaching a stage where it’s OK to print whatever you like now, because the chance of being indicted for contempt of court seem to be slim to non-existent these days.

But the real problem, both for the course of justice and for the media, is that the judiciary will not be beholden to the populism of politicians. If newspapers continue to print stories, which have ranged from merely a breach of the order, to a fight, to drug taking, and now to child porn (notice it getting worse because you can’t libel someone who has no reputation to defend?)… then if this does indeed come to trial, the defence have an extraordinarily easy case to make that a fair trial is impossible.

Fair trials. Remember those? I know we’ve sold a lot of our values and liberties down the river in the past decade or two, but the right to a fair trial has to be preserved.

Bizarrely, it would actually be in the media’s best interests if they shut the hell up. They’ll be the first ones to moan if there is no trial because a court agrees that it would be impossible to select an unbiased jury, especially if his new identity is either disclosed or leaked to a paper, who must be itching to print what they doubtless already know about Venables’ new life.

But it would also be in all our interests to make sure the trial is fair, Venables gets due process, and whatever may or may not be coming to him.

There is no alternative that is acceptable.

And to see Dominic Grieve, of all people, selling out what remains of justice’s fundamental principles, and turning this into a political football, is extremely disheartening.

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