Friday, 5 March 2010

Yet another drink in the “Last Chance” saloon ...

I’m sure that if there wasn’t an election in the offing, politicians of all hues would be falling over themselves to condemn various elements of the gutter press – and the editors of a few broadsheets, for their disgraceful behaviour recently.

What do I mean?

Well, I’ve recently become much more informed about the current lifestyles of (both) the killers of Jamie Bulger, a 10 year old who was snatched the Strand shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside in 1993. Despite the strictest press curbs, which ought to have prevented me from learning anything new about those who were convicted of the offence, I now know a considerable amount about their current lifestyles. One of them has apparently been back in prison after breaching the conditions of his freedom, while the other has apparently committed no further offence since his release – and yet the media are still printing stories about both of them.

If there ever were a reason for an internet censor to say “stop now," surely this is it.

And yet the decision to place so much information in the public domain can only have been made by journalists who had consulted some of the finest (and probably most expensive) legal minds in the country. They must feel that, so long as they make no technical breach by positively identifying either of the two individuals, it must be all right. Yet I’m sure that the information which has been placed in the public domain has been sufficient to identify both – perhaps not only to their closest acquaintances, put possibly to a larger group of people who, with this additional information, have put two and two together and have arrived at the correct conclusion.

Can this be healthy? I don’t think so. While the killer whose behaviour has caused him to be rearrested may be more deserving of harsh treatment following his return to prison I see no reason at all why I should know anything about the other killer.

And I feel quite sick that I live in a country whose media barons appear to try every trick in the book to feed me with information about them. I want it to stop. Media stories aren’t treated like chip paper, as they were when the offences were committed. They don't disappear from public view the following day. Thanks to the internet, iconic images such as the one I’ve published will never die away, and nor will the gruesome details of not only the crime but also the newly released details of the lifestyles of the offenders.

We used to be able to rely on the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act to erase some of our former transgressions. Perhaps the internet has prohibited us from being able to erase even the most minor of those transgressions for good. But it’s not good. It’s evil – just as evil as the journalists who are trying to rake up information that really ought to be ignored.

What price privacy for those who have served their sentence and are trying to rebuild their lives?

And when will anyone have the courage to put the media barons back into their boxes?