Media makes a mockery of justice….
You couldn’t fail to escape the story of Raoul Moat; it was plastered all over 24 hour news channels and by default across the Twitterverse where the story only seemed to rival that of Paul the Psychic Octopus plumping for Spain as football’s next world champions. No doubt an intense period of navel gazing will follow as a fall-out from Moat’s eventual suicide and one of the things that must come under scrutiny is the role of the media in reporting crimes.
No jury in the land would have been able to give Moat an impartial trial by his peers following the extent of the media coverage which seemingly at several points lost its collective marble reporting the trial as being effectively over. What is more the media reporting of the story obviously fanned the flames of Moat’s already considerable anger and therefore it is not surprising that at one stage the police had to demand a news blackout.
However, it is the impact of the media reporting on the judicial process that most concerns me; it seems apparent that any defence lawyer worth their salt would find a way to wriggle out of a conviction that the media reporting in and of itself has rendered fundamentally unsafe. The irony is that especially tabloids are quick to condemn a system they decry as ‘lenient’ yet when it comes to selling newspapers they have no regard for the sanctity of that process and the quite right safeguards that exist within it to prevent a ‘trial by media’. Had Moat successfully argued any conviction unsafe the media would have found itself in the unwholesome position of facilitating the freedom of a dangerous person.
It’s right that the media be as free as is humanely possible, however, once that freedom starts impacting on other freedoms and rights (like the right to a fair trail by an unbiased jury of your peers) then the limits that should exist to that freedom have to start to be actively considered.