Saturday, January 29, 2011

Christopher Jefferies? Vincent Tabak? YES, IT COULD BE YOU!

Will there, one wonders, be any quarry stone left unturned with the public‘s right to know - in a dwindling band of countries abbreviated to the first letter - the surname of a person suspected of a crime?

‘Landlord, Dutchman, presumed innocent - until such time as a jury has fully deliberated - we hereby sentence you…err, with just one sentence.’

If there were ever any ethical rules in journalism then the Joanna Yeates murder suspects’ show trial suggests they may need a little spit and polish.

The recent grotesque phenomenon of national newspapers falling over themselves to name names does not have its beginnings in the McCarthy era, no sir. It is a new brand of ‘netfluenced’ journalism, the kind where the guilt or innocence of a suspect - or even the near bystander for that matter - are now so often deliberated on internet crime forums that democracies the world over no longer have control over what was once fondly termed a fair trial by peers. And national newspapers are tripping over dead bodies to beat them too, M‘lud!

In many of these armchair crime sites (where one’s peers’ sit in judgement of the privacy and rights of the citizen reduced to suspect) ‘presumed‘ innocent in the eyes of the law is one legal sentence that caves under the weight of a very common gossip.

Now, in the 21st Century, it is ‘online‘ inside unseen walls that the rights of the individual are hung, drawn and quartered in the stocks of cyberspace for all just men (and women) to mock, and they do so salaciously and with impunity.

One of the more bookish of such sites is Here, internet detectives - some may call them ghouls - ponder over the likely guilt of an array of citizenry; whose only crime - in many instances it must be said - is to be unfortunate enough to be in close proximity to an equally unfortunate cadaver. Dirty fingernails? Blue rinse? Sinister smile? Yer guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

In fact these web-based anonymous finger pointers, whose postings are usually over the verge of libellous, indicate a need for a new breed of lawyer, one employed solely to defend the accused who stands in a cyber courtroom of innuendo: Rumpole of the old global computing network be upstanding in court!

In fact, if this does not happen soon the job will be left to web-based sleuths whose ‘brief’ seems to be to argue, not the beyond a shadow of a doubt guilt, but the hunch. And so anyone found guilty may be executed. But only in cyberspace, Your Honour!

We have all entered a digital age when a suspect will forever be held in penury in the gossipy walls of prison internet. We must all beware. We may all be upstanding in court.

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