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The Police, The Media and The Public. All desperate to convict without due process.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Chris Jefferies, Rebecca Leighton are all just names but also people whose livelyhood’s have been tarnished, tried in the court of the media and public opinion and had their freedom taken away from them for some time. All of these people will never face trial and a jury because there was never enough evidence against them to warrant such a thing.

People in this country (and others but I can speak primarily for this country) want justice for those crossed but half the time they don’t give two hoots how justice is gained and if it means that innocent people lose their freedom then who gives a damn. There is a form of blood-lust and pack mentality that is growing by the year. Maybe I just feel it more as I grow older but the people of this country seem prepared to believe what they are told more often than they used to and are not willing to challenge what the powers that be are saying.

The powers that be are of course the media. The media told us Chris Jefferies was a weirdo who did the crime and killed Joanna Yates. It was all sorted by the media. No need for the police to come in with their so called evidence. He was arrested and some of his ex-pupils called him a weirdo and jobs a good ‘un but wait a minute. Hold your horses. When the police delved further into the crime it turns out that he wasn’t the killer. The media were wrong and they couldn’t give a rats arse. They wanted justice because the public wanted the killer to face court. The fact that the media’s first hunch was wrong is neither here nor there.

Next we get to the nurse who has spent 42 days in jail on remand for the murders of patients at a hospital where she worked. Rebecca Leighton was arrested solely on the strength that her fingerprints were on a saline drip. Only problem being that the saline drip her fingerprints were on wasn’t tempered with. Bit of a cock-up eh police? However we all knew she was guilty when she was arrested because the media splashed pictures of her at a club and drinking alcohol. We all know that every nurse in the country who truly cares about patients go straight home after their shift to read more nursing books and to pray. This evil woman went out and had a good time in her spare time so she was without a doubt a cold-blooded evil killer.

What horse expletive.

DSK may or may not have been guilty but if you speak to 90% of women they will tell you he was in fact guilty and they don’t need any evidence to back it up. The media were a tad more ginger with that story because it wasn’t a UK based one so it wasn’t pushing the buttons of your average British newspaper reader and buyer but when it comes to a story us Brits care about them boom. Had anyone ever been arrested for the Madeline McCann kidnapping a few years ago then I am betting within a day we’d know every single thing about this person and the media would paint this person as guilty even before the police had questioned him.

The print media frenzy over reporting criminal cases that haven’t even reached trial yet is for one one of the most disgusting things about this country and it is getting worse I am sure of it. If I was arrested for any serious crime that had got the country talking then I’m sure every photo of me that had ever been taken would be in a media newsroom and every person I have ever been in contact with will have been contacted by the print media and anyone that said anything bad of me would be quoted at length.

I hate our rush to judge culture. Let the criminal system play out and then report the situation. Yes court proceedings are open and you can report on them but speculating about a person when they haven’t even been charged is just plain old character assassination. I hope the young nurse sues all the media and takes them to the cleaners. One day they’ll stop rushing to judge but sadly that day will only come when the people of the UK do the same and I’m not sure that day is going to come any time soon.

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The Sun’s politics poll is a crock of you know what

This morning everyone’s favourite newspaper* The Sun showed us the results of a poll they had done on politics. The results are as follows:

Nick Clegg is a sheep. Ed Miliband and David Cameron are like snakes and William Hague is the only cabinet minister who is doing a good job. Nick Clegg is doing the worst job because he’s evil. Sums up the piece pretty well or does it?

Right at the bottom of the piece there was a graphic that showed how many of the respondents to the poll in percentage terms could recognise the cabinet members by photo and here are the results:

Who is this 'Danny Alexander?'

How seriously can we take the rest of the results when there are several cabinet members who people don’t even know by face? How can these people decide if they are doing a good job or not if they don’t know who they are? Douglas Alexander was only recognised by 15% of the people answering the survey but more alarmingly Andrew Lansley – who of course is in charge of the NHS – so has been on the news rather a lot over the past few months was only known by 18% of people. That surely in one foul swoop makes a mockery of this piece?

As for the people in this survey saying that MPs don’t deserve a holiday. Give me a break. It seems as though this poll was answered to by people with no interest in politics who think they are all shits (except William Hague for some reason) and think they all deserve to work 24/7/365 whilst being publicly whipped if they even think about straying from doing something for the good of the country.

MPs are just people doing jobs like the rest of us. They have long and demanding hours and need time off to recharge their batteries. We all need time off and I don’t see why just because they are MPs it should be different for them.

If you want to read the full story then you can do so behind this link

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Phone Hacking, Piers Morgan and the Sunday Mirror

So News International were involved in phone hacking. The whole world went nuts. Everyone cancelling their Sky subscriptions. People claiming to have never read The Times or even an online story on The Sun. Lefties scrambling to show the reading world that they had never even touched a Murdoch tainted product. One person even tweeted that she had never even seen a TV with Sky on it. I laughed so much I had a rectal prolapse*

So as we sit here today with the rumours swirling around the Mirror Group and lets be honest most of us are pretty darn sure that phone hacking was rife amongst all newspapers in the late 90s and up to the recent day then why am I not reading tweets and blogs from everyone saying how they are boycotting all the newspaper industry these days? Whilst their is no hard evidence yet against any other newspaper the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. We know that people who did phone hack worked for other newspapers and when Piers Morgan says in a 2007 interview that Clive Goodman was just a ‘fall guy for an investigative practice that everyone knows was going on,’ and went on to say in a Desert Island Discs programme when asked about it:

‘To be honest, let’s put that in perspective as well. Not a lot of that (staff on newspapers phone hacking) went on. A lot of it was done by third parties rather than the staff themselves. That’s not to defend it, because obviously you were running the results of their work.

‘I’m quite happy to be parked in the corner of tabloid beast and to have to sit here defending all these things I used to get up to, and I make no pretence about the stuff we used to do.

‘I simply say the net of people doing it was very wide, and certainly encompassed the high and low end of the supposed newspaper market.’

Now of course Piers Morgan is not going to come out and say that he knew directly of it now as it’s a shit-storm out there and he has a huge payday stateside that would be in jeopardy should he admit it but we all know deep down this practice was widespread. However the vitriol is not coming out anyone so there can only be two reasons for this. Either the story has blown itself out (which I do not believe) or that the media and government are so busy trying to take down the Murdoch’s that they have lost perspective on the actual crime.

The crime isn’t about one incident of hacking Milly Dowler’s phone It is about the culture of an industry and not just News International. If you want to take down News International and are using this as a crux then you have to attack other media outlets too because if you don’t then that’s just not cricket. If you are waiting until the hard evidence comes out against the other newspapers (which it will) then fair enough but I shall sit here watching the twittersphere and blogs with intent over the coming days, weeks and months.

The smoking gun has lots more smoke to blow before this one is over and if it doesn’t encompass the majority of Fleet Street then I’ll be shocked. Shocked.

*That actually didn’t happen.

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Rebekah Brooks arrested. Big deal, small deal or no deal at all?

So whilst sitting on Southend Central Railway Platform 2 this lunchtime with the rain lashing down I check twitter on the iPhone and Rebekah Brooks had been arrested. Twitter was full of joyful overtones. However when these people put brains in gear they’ll understand that this arrest was a) always going to happen and importantly b) the timing was highly questionable to say the least.

The timing – by appointment – on a Sunday is not standard procedure at all. Also the arrest coming two days before she was meant to face questioning before the Select Committee over phone hacking puts that appearance in both major jeaopary and even if she does turn up the questions she can answer will now be severely limited.

The arrest by itself is no deal at all. We all knew that she would be arrested at some point. People need to remember that being arrested, being charged and being convicted of any crime are three very very very different things entirely.

The only deal about this is the timing. The timing is extremely interesting and the Met need to come out and explain the timing quick sharpish or the conspiracy theorists will have a field day – and the way the public think at the moment the conspiracy theorists will be given the time of day by the Great British public.

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The Sun’s Front Page – Blatter & Gaddafi side-by-side

What can you say?

Whilst it might be over the top in the extreme as one of them isn’t ruthlessly killing his people you do have to admire The Sun in a way for going there. Both are a disgrace to human existence in their own way and both will do anything to cling on to power. I personally have little doubt that Blatter is just as corrupt as Gaddafi but the only difference is Blatter is only corrupt for money and power whereas Gaddafi is not only corrupt for money and power but morally too.

Oh wait so is Sepp Blatter.

So in conclusion The Sun went too far but I still thought for the gutter press it was actually pretty good.

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The Sun and Daily Mirror face criminal contempt court battles over Jo Yeates murder case coverage

In no surprise to anyone with a working brain – both The Sun and the Daily Mirror face contempt of court cases over their coverage of the arrest of landlord Chris Jefferies in the Jo Yeates murder case. The 25 year-old was found dead by dog walkers on Christmas Day last year in a case that would dominate the news landscape for quite a while.

A news case involving a suspicious death on Christmas Day *and* of a pretty white young female is always going to rank highly on the ‘news-o-meter’.

Anyway a few days after her body being discovered the landlord of her property was arrested and several newspapers had decided clearly he was guilty. All sorts was being written about him, mostly conjecture and some pupils at the school where he used to teach said he was a bit weird. Thus clearly painting the picture of a man who could go out and murder someone. Only problem was there was no evidence against him and he in fact was not guilty. Fellow resident in that block of apartments Vincent Tabac has already admitted manslaughter but denied murder – the trial is set for later this year.

Chris Jefferies is already undertaking legal action against The Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Star. He has also decided to sue the police for arresting him – this has less of a chance of succeeding but the newspapers all have serious cases to answers and may very well be forking out huge sums of money to the former art teacher over their articles surrounding him at the time of his arrest.

However it is The Sun and Daily Mirror who said the more serious legal issues with contempt hearings that could land the editors and newspapers with serious problems.

Sometimes the media – certainly the written media – are too keen to jump on a bandwagon and not be honest and true with their journalism. The popular feeling was that he was weird and therefore guilty – so a public pillorying was more than justified.

I just hope that the newspapers take a long hard look at themselves and realise what they have done. The media just never jeopardise a trial and should always wait until the facts come out in open court. Making a decision based jointly on being populist and sales when it comes to criminal proceeding is both immoral and against the law. I suppose that sums up some sections of our gutter press at the moment.

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Nick Clegg and the media

After reading the excellent pice by Olly Grender inThe New Statesman entitled Clegg can’t walk on water and the interview Jemima Khan did with the Deputy Prime Minister in the same magazine it brings up some excellent points.

Whatever happens at this current juncture Nick Clegg will be vilified. If he found the cure to the common cold there would newspapers and media outlets who’d say that he was putting 1000s of people out of work who work in the cough syrup/throat lozenge/paracetamol etc… industry. This is certainly not ideal but that is the world we live in. If you listened to just the media and were unable to form your own opinion then you’d believe that he is the most hated person in world politics of all time. He is the person who made the decision to spurn Labour in the 2010 coalition talks to go with the Tories – the party who received more votes and MPs at the General Election. Coupled that with having to go back on his pledge regarding tuition fees then there are two very high-profile sets of people who dislike him.

The truth is that Labour will attack anyone who dares disagree with them. They showed during the talks to form a potential coalition that they wanted the Lib Dems to prop them up and not be in a proper coalition. They basically wanted a Labour government with Lib Dem votes. If Labour wanted a Labour government then quite simply they should have won more seats at the General Election. They didn’t and therefore the country showed they didn’t want a Labour government. They claim that the Lib Dems are now Tory stooges and they prop up a Tory government but that is what they wanted for themselves. It would have been fine that way round but it wasn’t to be.

Also the mainstream media who are pro-Tory will be anti-Lib Dem because they want to ensure that in the future there is no coalition and a full-on Tory government. The majority of the written media are led by editors who still live in a two-party world but I’m afraid that world is not where this country lives anymore. 34% of votes in 2010 went for parties other than the two main parties. As younger people takeover as editors of newspapers then the media will adapt but at this current juncture the dinosaurs are scared and hate the idea that the political world isn’t where it was. A 3rd and potentially more parties having policy influence will make it much harder to lobby and bend the laws for their own greasy needs.

The media will change. It will have to change but the mainstream media probably has a decade or two left in them to kick the Lib Dems and other parties around. So the future is here. The future is right here on the worldwide interweb. Olly makes a terrific point that social media and the blogosphere are still growing and will continue to do so. Young people these days are less inclined to vote for the same party through loyalty for life and are ready to be wooed by whatever the parties say. This means that MPs and prospective MPs will have to listen more to what their constituents think. This is surely a good thing.

These days any Tom, Dick or Harry (or Neil) can set up a blog or a twitter account and have 100s of people read what they say. This means there is plenty of opinion out there and people are willing to read what the average person thinks and not just political commentators in the rags and on the tellybox. The more people write and in turn read the more engaged the whole process gets.

In the piece by Jemima Khan, Nick Clegg shows a more human side to him. The way the mainstream media portrays Clegg he is a ruthless hard-headed man who takes no guff and has his head down doing whatever it takes to stay in power and look important. The reality though is vastly different. He is a man with a loving wife and three young children that clearly mean the world to him. He tries to pick them up two or three days a week from school and keep them living as normal a life as possible. Some Labour activists on twitter this lunchtime were attacking Clegg for his son using the word ‘Papa’ instead od dad and quite simply I shake my head at those kind of comments. His kids speak both Spanish and English and that is how it should be. Being children of parents from different background it is only right they learn both languages and are brought up knowing both parts of their heritage. Anyone who disagrees with that is someone who needs help.

So as for Clegg’s position in the media he should just keep his head down and work hard. Whatever the media says over the next 42 months or so doesn’t really matter because if three months out from the next General Election he can point to everything he has done in government then people will be able to make up their own minds.

The people of this great country will never ever again be swayed solely by what a newspaper says. Never again will The Sun be able to say ‘it was us who won it’ and never again will people vote simply because of what a newspaper says. Newspapers will still have influence but as much as they hate it – that influence is diminishing and will continue to do so. People aren’t thick and in this multimedia age it is far easier to read both sides of a story. The future for Nick Clegg and the party is deeply uncertain but one thing they need not worry about is what the mainstream media is saying today because today their opinion doesn’t count for much and come the next General Election their opinion will count for even less.

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The Murder of Jo Yeates, The Media & MPs react.

I have dillied and dallied on whether or not I was going to write this blog but it looks like I am going to go through with it. The murder of Jo Yeates is without a doubt a horrific crime and needs to be treated as such. However the way the media are going on it seems as though this is the first murder of a person in the UK for a generation. I could deal with that without too much of a murmur but the reporting in the Sunday newspapers have tipped me over the edge of silence.

Now I know Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East has claimed on her twitter feed that she has been misquoted but she did say – and the quotes are direct – that (about DNA testing) ‘but rather than taking DNA just from men in the Clifton area, where the population is somewhat transient, the operation should be widened to include the whole of the city.’

First of all this is not a sex crime. Therefore it could have been a woman who murdered her and in any DNA testing plan the police would have to test both men and women. Secondly as far as I’m aware people are free to travel outside of their local area so the murderer may not be a local. The profile of this murder seems to suggest that this wasn’t an opportunist killing and was planned. If it was planned then someone could have driven in and out of the area to do what they did.

So mass DNA testing would have to cover everyone essentially. It opens up the question of personal information and whether or not people who are not accused of a crime should have their DNA taken. I know there is an opinion of ‘if you are innocent then you have nothing to worry about’ but I don’t buy that. I do not (to my knowledge) live in a police state and live in a liberal and free society. I’m not surprised Labour MPs have backed this plan.

Tom Harris, Labour MP for Glasgow South tweeted, ‘However the comments by @KerryMP might have been misreported, I hope the idea of DNA tests for every man in Bristol is acted upon.’ The police have not even said that they have any DNA from the body to match any sample against or whether any sample is male or female. He is just desperate for attention and has already decided that a male is to blame for the murder. He’d be a great policeman…Not. So basically two Labour MPs have jumped on the populist bandwagon and said that DNA testing can possibly save the day. DNA evidence is clearly an important part of any case but just let the police do their job.

That brings me on to my biggest bugbear. I have read across the media and on various internet forums that the police are not doing a very good job. Well what bullshit. The police are trained to investigate crimes and we have to just let them get on with it. The media should just let the police do their job and be there to help the police with media appeals etc… Being critical of an ongoing case when no-one in the media actually knows what is going on in Police HQ is flat-out dumb and pathetic. There was a reason the police told itvNews to get out of their Press Conferences – and that is because they were hindering the investigation.

So an open memo to the media. Solving the crime is the most important thing. Not giving opinions on the investigation and what might or might not have happened. I’m not a trained police officer and therefore I have no knowledge of how to investigate a crime. Nor do members of the media or MPs for that matter. Let the people who are trained do the job and keep your opinions to yourself if you are going to make comments that might harm the investigation.

My final point of this matter is that Jo Yeates was a 20-something blonde who was murdered and the media have jumped on board like it’s the worst crime ever. I ask myself whether the media would be all over the story had for example the murder victim had been a 35 year-old Pakistani woman or a 40 year-old bald man? Sometimes I feel that the media jump on to a crime because the person killed fits that ‘middle England’ sense of perfection.

For example see the Madeline McCann coverage. Perfect blonde girl with a smile and wearing a football top. Again a terrible crime may well have happened here but kids get abducted all the time and they never get this coverage. Early last year there were a series of knife crimes in London where young teenagers were stabbed and killed but those stories went away after 24-48h. This one isn’t and the difference is in the gender. As far as I can recall no teenage girls were stabbed and killed during that spell of violence, had there been would the media reporting have been different? I know I certainly think so.

I may just be a 20-something cynic but if I disappeared and turned up dead, my death would not be making headlines a fortnight later. There might be a Crimewatch reconstruction a few months later and it might make the news when my body was discovered but I suspect that would be it.

The media know how to make a story and this is a legit story that needs to be reported but so are other murders and missing people. The media should not be able to pick and choose which murders are most important but they do and sadly this is something we have to live with. Hopefully the police are allowed to get on with their job and find out who killed Jo Yeates and then the streets will be safer but for now we know nothing so let’s give the police the time and space to conduct their investigations.

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The Telegraph shoot themselves (and subsequently all of us) in the foot over their Stings.

The exciting revelations in both The Telegraph and subsequently via Robert Peston of BBC News fame have shuddered me to my core. I cannot believe that MPs have opinions and whats more – members of the coalition might not agree with everything that the coalition is doing. I mean seriously. Whodda thunk it?

In all seriousness the most newsworthy aspect of this whole sting wasn’t what anyone said but what The Telegraph did – or to be more accurate – didn’t do. They published what they said was the full transcript of the conversation between Vince Cable and two undercover reporters posing as constituents. Within hours it came to light that they had in fact published part of it and left out what was the most interesting and newsworthy part.

Vince Cable’s opinion of Rupert Murdoch and his media empire having too much influence are inline with what The Telegraph think and this story was meant to portray him in a bad light. Therefore they didn’t run with it. They wanted an anti-Murdoch guy in charge and whilst they wanted to damage his name – they also wanted him to still preside over the Sky/BSkyB deal as having Cable make the judgment gave them a better chance of getting the outcome that they wanted. This showed outrageous bias and poor judgment by the Editors of the newspaper.

They quite clearly and purposely lied to their readers by claiming to publish the full transcript when they did not. I’m surprised they haven’t gotten more stick from the blogosphere for this.

As for what Vince said and what other MPs have said in other powerful stings – well it is really either newsworthy or in the Public Interest? As most will know I am a Journalist by trade so I can see it from both sides. The only thing remotely newsworthy was the Murdoch information – and that is only newsworthy or in the Public Interest if you believe that Vince Cable would make a judgment not based on facts but based on his own bias. That is not something I can answer for everyone but I’d like to think he could have an opinion but reach a decision based on facts.

For example I have sat on two jury’s and on the second jury everyone around the table thought the defendant was guilty. Every single one of us. However the evidence wasn’t there and the prosecution put together a case riddled with holes and therefore relatively quickly we were able to acquit. It was the right decision based on the facts we were presented with but reading between the lines – and then when the judge told us of his prior record we all looked at each other and just knew but we had made the right decision.

So if people on a jury can put away their gut feeling and look at the case – 12 good men and women (although one girl was sitting in the jury room reading a magazine whilst we were discussing a serious sexual assault case against a minor – yeah – a great example of being a citizen there) if we can make a judgment based on facts then surely so can Vince Cable. I do not believe his bias would overrule the facts. Others may (and without a doubt will) disagree.

So is the fact that Vince Cable has an opinion on something newsworthy or in the Public Interest?

Some people I’ve read today think that as they are elected by us they should all be completely honest and say everything they think in public. The only way you could ever do that is by having all MPs mic’ed up at all times allowing them to have zero privacy. I think I’ll pass on that one. Just a small infraction of an MPs Civil Liberties & Human Rights there.

The upshot of this story is MPs will be less open and forthright with their constituents in case they are being recorded. They’ll raise their walls and be more guarded. If you can’t be open and honest with people who have elected you then there is a problem – but it is a problem The Telegraph has helped create. There isn’t a way round it either. MPs now know that anything off the public record might in fact be on the public record and will act accordingly and I think this is a sad state of affairs.

Had they recorded an MP saying that they were using their position of power to break laws then it is newsworthy. A bit like the wikileaks stuff – the leaks that say the USA don’t like another country – who cares. The leaks that say people in Kashmir are being tortured and having their Human Rights abused – now that is newsworthy.

The question to The Telegraph is clearly ‘Was it all worth it?’ and in my opinion the answer is a resounding ‘No’. They have instead of exposing an MP as having opinions put out a stark warning to all MPs to be more private and secretive and that is not good for our society.

Thanks a bunch.

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