A law unto themselves

Welcome to Britain“The biggest press scandal of our time is not intrusion on royal privacy – which has just led to a reporter’s imprisonment – but the newspapers’ consistent and brazen disregard for the contempt laws. The police and the government, far from taking steps to apply those laws, have colluded in what amounts to a complete revision of British legal conventions. The Press Complaints Commission, always active in trying to protect the royals, has so far refused on this issue even to investigate.

“Take last week’s coverage of the alleged kidnap plans by Birmingham-based Muslims. ‘The execution plot: Terror gang planned to kidnap, torture and behead a soldier on our doorstep,’ announced the Sun. Just in case we wanted to know what an execution might look like, the front page showed the US hostage Nick Berg being executed in Iraq in 2004. The Times front page prominently quoted ‘a senior police source’, a ubiquitous and garrulous creature on these occasions: ‘This is Baghdad come to Birmingham … The soldier would have been filmed dressed up … like Kenneth Bigley.’ The Times duly printed a picture of Bigley, a Briton murdered in Iraq in 2004, in an orange jump suit.

“Under the sub judice laws, journalists are supposed, from the moment of arrest, to confine themselves to the barest details and to avoid publishing material which might prejudice a jury if the case came to trial. Judge for yourself whether the coverage fell within the laws.”

Peter Wilby in the Guardian, 5 February 2007

Via Indigo Jo Blogs