Friday, February 17, 2006

Today Programme impersonates The Sun

I switched on Radio 4 this morning and found myself listening to a broadcast version of The Sun.

The Today Programme this morning carried an interview with Bill Jenkins, the natural father of Billie-Jo Jenkins, whose foster father Sion Jenkins was acquitted of her murder last week.

Understandably, Mr Jenkins’ is a man tormented. Not only has he lost a daughter in horrendous circumstances but he must also feel guilt at the circumstances that led to his daughter being fostered and anger that this did not lead to her safety. On top of that, such closure as might have been afforded by Sion Jenkins’ conviction has now been removed by his ultimate acquittal. He feels that the court reached the wrong decision last week.

One can hardly blame him for feeling angry and bitter. What is disgusting is the Today programme’s exploitation of these emotions to enable Bill Jenkins to leave listeners in no doubt that he regards Sion Jenkins as guilty and the court verdict as wrong. Of course the programme was not brave enough to let him say this in so many words and exposte them to the risk of legal action. The reporter Sanchia Berg more or less allowed Bill Jenkins to present the judge’s decision on admissibility of evidence and jury’s failure to convict as bizarre and perverse without challenge. Even such ‘difficult’ questions as were posed were put in an essentially sympathetic manner.

Most despicably of all, however, the item finished a statement that Sion Jenkins had been invited to discuss these issues but had declined, a tactic that carries ‘so what has he got to hide’ implications. Actually Sion Jenkins has had a chance to discuss the issues at three lengthy murder trials, at the end of which he was acquitted. Perhaps he feels he should not now have to tour the radio and television studios protesting his innocence, when the court has already decided the issue. At least the Sun last Saturday had the excuse that it was reporting genuine emotions felt by those closely affected in the immediate wake of the decision. The Today Programme has no such excuse for its contemptible behaviour.

I say all this not because of some macarbre interest in a horrendous murder, but because in its way the reaction to this case is all part of the assault on jury trials. In effect the media have tried Jenkins again and pronounced him guilty. Even after emotions have had time to cool, the Today Programme resurrects the lynch-mob mentality. The folk memory of this case will be of a guilty man getting off Scot-free, whatever the reality of the evidence presented to the court. I am not hearing any prominent voices vigorously defending the integrity of the legal process.


Angus J Huck said...

Politicians won't speak out against tabloid newspapers because they are scared witless.

Those of us with median-term memories will recall the barrage of abuse that Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone endured at the hands of the media, some of it fair, most of it way over the top.

No politician with an instinct for self-preservation wants to be next.

The problem is especially acute where the subject is serious crimes against children.

Remember the "News of the Screws" and its campaign of "outing" paedophiles? I do not recall a single senior politician calling Murdoch to book for his unbelievable recklessness. Instead, the Home Secretary breezed off to Wapping and grovelled.

The "Screws" campaign resulted in serious civil disorder, and put perfectly innocent lives at risk (some of the "outed" parties were mistakenly accused).

What the "Screws" won't tell us is that their campaign of character-assassination against Sion Jenkins is the product of manipulation and spurious data feeding by Sussex Police.

Similarly, when Michael Stone was first convicted on the transparently perjured "evidence" of two prison grasses, Kent Police deluged the media with largely fictitious accounts of Stone's alleged "psychopathic" behaviour, all of them emanating from petty criminals. (The Government even considered changing the law to lock "psychopaths" up indefinitely without trial on the say-so of a psychiatrist, solely on the basis of this nonsense.)

What Kent Police won't tell us is that on the day that Stone is alleged to have attacked the Russells, he was at Gillingham Police Station agreeing to spy on Kent police officers who attended a gay pride march the following Saturday.

Rather shabby treatement for a loyal informer, fitting him up for a serious crime. Damian Daley (who gave evidence against Stone) was allowed to get away with two arson attacks in Brighton in return for his perjury at both of Stone's trials.

Angus J Huck said...

Sorry. I mean to say, what the "SUN" won't tell us...