A useful article on holdthefrontpage.co.uk from a leading media lawyer on the possible implications of some coverage of the Shannon Matthews case on future trials.

Can those charged in relation to the child’s alleged abduction expect a fair trial given some of the stories that have already appeared?

We have seen similar concerns raised before in other stories. We have seen some high-profile cases compromised by pre-trial coverage and on occasion by reporting during the actual court proceedings.

As ever, this is a tricky question and raises all sorts of further issues and questions. The article by Nigel Hanson is a good starting point.

It is also worth pointing out that although the finger invariably gets pointed at print journalists, other media are not immune to some of the more sensational reporting we see in such cases.

So-called “tabloid coverage” is not restricted to certain newspapers these days, it covers TV, radio and particularly the web.

(Edit: A leading judge has now entered the debate with a warning to the media about the nature of some of the pre-trial coverage.)

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One response »

  1. Ursula says:

    Fairness – a vexing question indeed.

    Of course, in an ideal world, a court and its jury would sit and pass wise judgement, totally uninfluenced by their own life’s experience, reading the papers, listening to Radio 4 and the fact that, apparently, we judge a person within – oh I don’t know how many seconds.

    People bleat about ‘trial by media’ and I’d hate to be at the receiving end of it. However, let’s remember that there was a time, BM (before media), when people were tried within their own little community – in front of an already prejudiced court (their neighbours); thus shunned forever or hanged from the village green’s tree.

    The pointed and prejudiced finger has always ruled the world; ‘media’, facilitated by technology, only globalised it.

    U

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