Some of you might be aware that I have a column at The Huffington Post. On 28th March 2014, I wrote an article, which I have reproduced in its entirety below, in which I attacked certain sections of the media (mainly social media) for declaring people guilty before trial. The Huffington Post refused to publish the article.
The reason given was that they didn’t want to focus on any articles which discuss ongoing legal matters. This is the same Huffington Post which carried the following stories today:
- Brit Alex Hollinghurst Dead After Teen And Boyfriend Brandon Goode ‘Shoot’ US Police Officer Robert German
- Oscar Pistorius Trial Postponed As Murder Accused Paralympian Set To Take The Stand
- Keith Blakelock Murder Trial Witness Tells Court ‘All Blacks Look Alike’
And they’re just three that I found within the first two minutes of casually browsing the front page. Double standards much? Or are they perhaps worried about something else? Could it be the fact that it’s their website and their articles which is often guilty of condemning potentially innocent people?
Here’s the article in full, of which they halted the publication. You can decide for yourself.
With all of the news about missing planes and trigger-happy South Africans recently, it would be easy to miss the story that a male nurse has been re-arrested in connection with the deaths of three patients at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport. You also might have missed the news that Jimmy Tarbuck has had all charges dropped against him in relation to allegations of sex offences. These two stories both went largely ignored, yet remain intrinsically linked.
The link is innocence. Back in 2011, Rebecca Leighton was questioned by police in connection with the Stepping Hill murders. The internet, as it does, went apoplectic. People were calling for the death sentence. In a moment of level-headedness, I posted a tweet appealing for calm, stating that she hadn’t even been charged, let alone found guilty in a court of law, and that she should not even have been named in the media. In response, I received a barrage of tweets from people saying I was defending her and should be ashamed of myself. I even received a series of tweets from the granddaughter of one of the murdered Stepping Hill patients, stating that she hoped members of my family were murdered too.
All charges against Rebecca Leighton were dropped. A similar pre-Twitter event occurred with the arrest of Christopher Jefferies, who was arrested for the murder of Joanna Yeates. He, too, was cleared and Vincent Tabak was sentences for her murder. At the time I publicly stated that I wasn’t entirely convinced Jefferies was guilty. Something didn’t seem quite right. Perhaps it’s my background as a crime writer which gives me some sort of developed intuition into guilt. Who knows? Either way, this isn’t me saying ‘I was right all along’. Well, it is, but not about that. It’s me saying I was right all along that we should not be so quick to judge people just because they’ve been arrested for something.
Anyone can be arrested for anything. I could leave my house and walk to the shop now and find out that a bald bloke wearing a terrible shirt committed a horrible murder around the corner twenty minutes ago. I’d then be arrested and questioned by the police. To be honest, I’d be pretty pissed off if that was then reported in the newspaper. I’d be even more pissed off if the general public took to social media to declare me guilty. Wouldn’t you? Consider it. You could be next.
The justice system goes like this: You get suspected, then arrested, then charged, then sentenced in court. Until that very last part has been completed, you’re innocent. That’s the law. Let’s all have some humility and do our best to remember that.