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The Daily Mail and Stephen Lawrence. Why the newspaper still gets it so horribly wrong.

I have been on a bit of a bandwagon recently over what the role of the media is not only in this country but around the world. Is the media there to drive the news agenda or is it there to report the news? I know my thoughts but I am a lone voice in the wilderness with the wind howling back into my face so my voice is only heard by me.

So yesterday two men were convicted of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. They will be sentenced shortly and will be sentenced as juveniles as they were 16 and 17 when they carried out the murder. These men had escaped justice for the best part of 19 years. In 1997 the Daily Mail had a front page calling five suspects murderers and challenging them to sue them. We all have seen the front page but it is all over the Daily Mail website today. I still find this deplorable as I believe it is the job of the courts and members of a jury to decide who is guilty of what crime and not an editorial staff at a newspaper but that might be a bit old fashioned of me.

So we get to today. The Daily Mail are lauding the fact that two of the people they accused have been found guilty. Guilt was deemed through forensic evidence only which always make me a touch uneasy but guilt has been passed and that is that. My biggest issue is with the fact that the three other men they accused are being chased by the newspaper as they look to take down the other three men they accused for the killing in 1997. Hang on a minute surely that isn’t the job of the newspaper, that is the job of the police and CPS?

As it stands these three men have been found not guilty in a court of law of these crimes. Charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence so what do the Daily Mail have on these suspects that they have decided not to pass on to the police? Surely they have some hard evidence to accuse these people of such a crime or is it maybe the fact that the people of this country want justice and sometimes justice is best served through the media than in the courts?

This is just something I cannot stomach. The people behind the Daily Mail do not know these men committed said crime. They took a calculated risk that would boost their circulation and make them sound tough on a notorious crime. The five men were always unlikely to sue the newspaper despite the fact they would win because of the public perception against them for doing so. Two of these men have now 15 years later been found guilty in a Court of Law but all five were perceived guilty in the Court of Public Opinion thanks in no small part to the Daily Mail.

Should they herald this as a triumph? They got two of out five seemingly right. All five had faced these charges before but when the Double Jeopardy law was repealed then it opened up the possibility of another trial. The police have found enough forensic evidence to take down two but the odds of finding any against the other three or more at this point seems like an awful long shot. No witnesses at the time could identify any of the suspects. There was no CCTV of the incident so we are left with the scenario where there will be no primary evidence available at any potential trial of the three other men.

So why does the Daily Mail (and the BBC News last night) try to continue to harass these men who have faced these charges only to be found not guilty due to insufficient evidence in an attempt to goad them into a retaliation? They do it because they have decided that is what mob justice wants and if they can’t get justice in the courts then they will be the ones to hand out the justice. That isn’t right folks and we all know it.

Still that how it goes these days. A media outlet can drive a story and if it bays to the will of the mob then they will be able to get away with it. People want justice and these days many don’t see the Court of Law as the best place for justice to be dished out. This worries me deeply.

I know that all five men that the newspaper accused seem like extremely unpleasant people. They may well be guilty of the crime that the Daily Mail says they are. They might very well be. However for me I shall leave it up to the courts and the 12 good men and women on a jury to decide who is guilty and of what crime and not the media. The media will never have all the evidence and will always have an ulterior motive. The courts and the jury won’t and that is why they are the right people to dish out justice and not the media.

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  1. IS IS

    RK and neilmonnery,

    I can see the original point of view, but I also see that taking the view that the media is attempting to boost their sales by slamming these men is taking a particularly short-sighted view on the matter. By taking this stand, it seems more as though the editor is standing up for his beliefs; that these men are guilty of a racial murder and that it shouldn’t be stood for.

    Whether you are working from a legal or moral stand, it must be recognised that the racism these men have showed (in their lives and the video RK mentioned) is wrong; perhaps not enough to convict them of any crime, but enough to be recognised as grossly inappropriate, at the very least.

    There were 26 later reported tip-offs, some who gave their names depite the obvious risk from these men, that this group was likely to be the killers. These tip-offs cannot be ignored under any circumstances when considering the case and when deciding whether or not you beleif the men are guilty.

    There is yet to be any forensic evidence against the final three suspects, Knight and the two Acourt brothers, but this could easily change; since the killing, there has been an immense development in the science that is available to forsensic scientists and therefore it is beleived by studying the clothing of the alleged, more evident will turn up. Surely just proving they were there on the night of the murder would be enough to convict them of aiding and abetting? By finding fibres of the clothes the victim had been wearing on the clothes the alleged had been wearing that night, this would amount to convincing evidence, in my eyes.

    The only critical eye-witness at the time was the victim’s best friend, Brooks, who later made the statement that his inability to provide an answer in the line-up was due to his Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, which arose from the murder. The lack of eye-witness identification doesn’t on its own mean the alleged are innocent, and as it is it doesn’t seem likely an identification would be taken seriously this amount of time after the murder. After nearly 19 years, memories get distorted and whether or not a person is identified in a line-up cannot be relied on as evidence for either verdict, and neither can the fact that Brooks couldn’t identify the men in a line-up at the time.

    So, in reflection, I have to say I agree with RK’s point of view, and deeply disagree with neilmonnery’s view; I’ve read interviews with the editor of the Daily Mail (the man who decided to print the article in 1997), and he has described the assessments he had to do and the pros and cons he had to weigh up to decide if it was a good idea to run the article. It seems as though the article was instrumental in raising public awareness of the case and, despite risking libel and comtempt of court cases against them, important to the case in general. There appears to have been no legal consequences for them, and indeed if there had been a libel case the Daily Mail would have had to prove on the balance of probabilities that the alleged were guilty of murder (i.e. that it was more likely than not that they had killed Stephen Lawrence, which seems likely to be provable).

    In my opinion, the Daily Mail shouldn’t continue to be blasted by laymen without a full understanding of the situation and facts, especially for an article that was published 15 years ago. Without a conviction in the courts, these men can’t be ‘found guilty’ or be submitted to retribution, so saying that the media’s role is not to find the alleged guilty of crimes is a pointless comment. In this situation, the Daily Mail did not even suppose to be able to present a legal conviction, merely a moral beleif as to the guilt of the alleged.

  2. RK RK

    I understand your sentiments and would normally agree. However, the facts – although circumstantial – are clear to everyone in this country and point inescapably to guilt. The video of them playing with knives, the removal of the blood spattered clothes, the 26 separate tip offs as to their identity. All of these facts point to a mob killing in which only two of the men have now been convicted. Decrying the media for harassing the men who are “not guilty” is shamelessly putting your head in the sand. Particularly when it is painfully obvious that their innocence is simply a consequence of the shocking ineptitude of the MPS. Having principles is laudable but taking the moral highground in these circumstances is breathtakingly naive and counter intuitive to the complexity of the situation. You should understand this case for what it is, not use it as an opportunistic pretext for attacking the media

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      Hi RK,

      Whilst all the evidence seems pretty clear the facts are the eye-witnesses failed to finger them in a line-up. The police have no forensic evidence against the other three. The video shows them acting like absolute pricks but that isn’t a crime. I agree they are probably guilty but it is up to the justice system to decide that and not the media. I have no doubt there is evidence we – the public – haven’t heard through the media.

      I like to think I understand the case fairly well but still to be PoV that you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. I’m sorry if you don’t like that principle but it is one I will always standby. No matter what the case is. I think it is one of the most important principles that we have as a society.

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