Monday, May 04, 2009

It's An Outrage All Right

The Daily Mail is well down to its usual standard this morning in a story about the terrible child abuse cases around Baby Peter.
It was always likely that the ground breaking use of evidence from a very small child would go on to be challenged in the highest courts. That's as it should be for such an important issue. However, the Mail has mendaciously planted the suggestion that it's all down to the Human Rights Act, and Article 6, the right to a fair trial. With or without the HRA this child's evidence was always going to be challenged. Courts routinely see video evidence in what's called ABE (Achieving Best Evidence) interviews, designed to get what evidence is available without traumatising the witness, but asking a four year-old to recount what happened when she was two is a dramatic move onto new ground. For what it's worth I am happy to let the jury judge the value of the evidence (although it's interesting that this one came down 10-2) but it's right that the principle and practice should be thoroughly looked at.
In addition, the Mail has sown the seeds of criticising Counsel for having the temerity to defend such a 'monster'.
The Mail deserves only contempt for using highly educated and skilled journalists to skew news so as to pander to the prejudices of knuckledraggers.
If you can bear it, have a look at the comments under the article on the Mail website. Overwhelmingly they are against this defendant having any legal representation and some even want the lawyers punished.
Yes I know that people write extraordinary stuff from behind the anonymity of a modem, but it is a scary thought that most or all of those commenters will have a vote and be eligible to serve on a jury.

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