Sunday, April 06, 2008


Journalists have a strong herd instinct, and a particular way of looking at an issue soon becomes embedded. It is currently standard procedure to speak of sentences as being 'just' this or that, and to add 'of which he will serve just half' as if that is some kind of special let-off. This is a good example of reporting that is just plain wrong and plain ignorant. The magistrates were obliged to allow a one-third reduction in the sentence as credit for a guilty plea, and if they had imposed the full six months they would certainly have been appealed. If the reporter had taken the trouble to ask a magistrate or a lawyer they could have corrected the CADD campaigner's assertions. The BBC ought to do better than that. At least Mr. Spokesman from Sussex Police got it right.
This may seem a trivial complaint, but it does matter. The steady drip-drip of half truths and misinformation has given the public a distorted picture of what courts do and why they do it. That's bad for society and bad for democracy.

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