20 May 2011

Trial by Publicity

There is a limit to my appetite for public humiliation of others, and I feel my appetite is somewhat smaller than the majority.

The trial by publicity is a loathesome concept to anyone with a moral sense of justice, with media prosecuting many people on a regular basis before they are entitled to their right enshrined in law, to a trial by their peers.

The high profile issue of Strauss-Khan, he who is embroiled in sexual assault charges in America, has gone far enough, but it appears US Governments further condone the act of trial by publicity as a form of deterent justice.

This simply appauling procedure is known as the perp walk, and the horror of this is discussed in today's Evening Standard. The photograph shows a brutal scene of one of the most powerful men in the world reduced to a tangiable and pitiful site.
And were he have been found guilty, it would be more digestable as a demonstration of the principle of every man being equal before the law.
But he has not yet been found guilty by any court. And yet, for some reason, he has become fair game to any reporter who wishes to state, directly or indirectly, that he committed the charge lay before him.

As we saw with the landlord of Joanna Yeates at Christmas, while we do not have a 'perp walk' in the UK, this does not prevent the media prosecuting any person they chose before they are charged.

I cannot reconcile with the image of this humiliation serving as a deterrent, with the US crime figures as high as they are, and the violence rife in the cities. Nor, as courts move to make lesser offences to be dealt with a fine to free up more court time for more serious ones, does it appear to work in the UK.

This right wing approach breaches the human right to a fair trial, and I, like the French, am appauled to see such treatment in the apparently most advanced country in the world.

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