The lawyers of Christopher Jefferies, the initial suspect in the Joanna Yeates murder investigation, have claimed the media’s apparent character assassination of their client ignored warnings from a judge.
Newspapers were told they risked contempt of court charges if they continued to pillory Jefferies but the 30 year-old law designed to preserve the principle of innocence until proven guilty looks increasingly lightweight.
“His name has been blackened, and his privacy invaded,” said Rhys Mardon, one of Jefferies’ representatives at The Stokoe Partnership. “This type and level of coverage in the media is, in our experience, unprecedented, particularly at this very early stage of the investigation.”
Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie argued on Radio 4 that the Contempt of Court Act was already “inconsequential” and “the online world makes it ridiculous now”, as competing journalists can no longer rely on one solid angle for the morning press.
Meanwhile, another online problem is the “chatter” of social media, which “tends to amplify [news coverage] and make it assume a greater significance,” said David Banks, a media consultant and the author of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists. “Some [on Twitter] are not even in nodding acquaintance with the laws of libel, contempt or any other such constraints.”
Image taken from Flickr user wblj used under the creative commons.