Sunday, March 07, 2010

Sabotaging Sub Judice

It was inevitable that the tabloids would salivate over the news that Jon Venables had returned to jail. True to form, they have gloried in their largely self-generated hysteria over the story.
There was, however, a welcome note of sanity & perspective in yesterday's Guardian editorial ( ):
"The tabloids are waving the principled banner of the public's right to know, but are trading speculative accounts of where Venables is, what he looks like -- even what he is eating -- while damning the government for 'betraying James' by 'sickening' details of Venables' latest misdoings. No matter that there is no presumption for disclosure, still less an automatic press release, at this stage with recalls, the red-tops -- backed by a Conservative Party whose 'rehabilitation revolution' now seems almost forgotten -- suggest the justice secretary [Jack Straw] is being soft by refusing to publish the details. This show of populist strength is a dangerous game which could self-defeat, even in its own terms. There are rare occasions when casual spraying about of information can frustrate justice, most obviously before a criminal trial. Even if Venables has committed a serious new crime, and even if the aim is to make him suffer as much as possible, it will not be served by prejudicing proceedings against him to the point where the courts rule themselves unable to establish guilt."
Those are points Mark Thomas would have done well to consider before writing about the case on his blog ( ).
As an aside, I'm sure it wasn't intentional, but I suspect I'm not the only person to find this observation by Thomas in dubious taste:
"If I had been asked to have a wager on which of them [Thompson or Venables] might get into further trouble in their adult lives, my money would have been on Thompson".
Considering such a question in terms of "a wager" is jarringly incongruous. It is also an insult to the memory of James Bulger.

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