Friday, 13 May 2011

Innocent until proven guilty...

I wrote about this yesterday but it appears to have disappeared...

One of my most fundamental beliefs is that a person should be presumed innocent until they have been proven guilty in a court of law.  As such I was very pleased to read this, The Sun and The Daily Mirror are facing contempt of court proceedings for their coverage of the hunt for Joanna Yeates' killer.

I remember reading the story at the time (though admittedly not in either of these papers) and thinking that the coverage was terrible.  The gist of the story was Christopher Jefferies (her landlord) was arrested.  After this moment I remember his face being on the front page of most newspapers, the reporting that followed did nothing to suggest he might be innocent.  I then read various stories, which I can best describe as character assassinations, these left the reader in no doubt that he was definitely the sort of person who would do such a thing.  His name was effectively mud.  The police released him without charge.

I'm sure Mr Jefferies went through an awful ordeal (nothing compared to Joanna's family of course - I don't want to take anything away from that), but the reporting was done in such a way that I can't see how his ordeal would have stopped there.  Imagine if it had gone to trial.  It is more than likely that the jurors would have read at least some of the coverage and therefore already been prejudice against him from the beginning - he wouldn't have received a completely fair trial, as a result there may have been a miscarriage of justice.   Thankfully the police did their job well and (hopefully) the correct person is behind bars.

Like I have said, I believe in innocent until proven guilty.  Therefore I would have a blanket ban on any publication of the details of a person who is arrested until they have been found guilty.  

Finally though, my thoughts go out to Jo's family.  They have been through enough, I'm sure the last thing they want is the case in the public eye again.

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