Sunday, October 28, 2007

In Camera

This weekend the prints are full of allegations that a member of the Royal Family has been the subject of attempted blackmail. Quite properly the victim's identity has been protected by the court, but unusually the first hearing was held behind closed doors. The alleged blackmailers have been remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey.
This has raised a number of issues, and it remains to be seen how the Old Bailey trial is arranged. Just as it would be with any victim he or she will be allowed to give evidence while screened from the public (probably using CCTV). The Judge will forbid any identification of the victim.
However. We live in a world in which news travels fast, and in which the media have a ferocious appetite for any news item that will sell a few more papers. Our tabloid press confess without shame that they bribe police officers for information and will pay what they need to pay to anyone who has the news they crave.
The two alleged blackmailers are in custody. Some of their prison officers and perhaps some of their fellow inmates know who they are. At this moment many journalists have been despatched to check their contacts, and if necessary, to buy information from just-released prisoners, off-duty prison staff - anyone.
And even if editors quail before the wrath of the judges, there is nothing to stop the facts leaking onto the Web, free of any threat from the British courts.
I give it a week, tops.

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