A Note on Sub Judice and the Worcester “Acid Attack” Case

From BBC News:

Father in court over Worcester ‘acid attack’ on boy, 3

The father of a boy who was the victim of a suspected acid attack is among five men who have appeared in court.

…The other men charged are [names redacted here].

The father cannot be named for legal reasons.

The mood on social media is that the BBC ought to have referred explicitly to the men’s ethnicity and residential status in the UK, although the former can be inferred from the names themselves. Further, before the charging decision, a joint Daily Mail and Mail Online article made claims about the boy’s parents and their domestic relations, from which readers continue to speculate – or rather, to make confident assertions – about motive and likelihood of guilt.

Inevitably, the allegations are also being used to draw wide-ranging negative inferences about the character of immigrants living in the UK, even though such expressions of contempt sit uneasily with supposed sympathy for the boy and his mother.

If the above reads as though I’m tiptoeing around the specific details, it is because I am mindful that the case is now sub judice, and as such discussion by law must be circumscribed, to ensure a fair trial. I may be overdoing it by redacting names that have appeared in the BBC report, but it is better to be overcautious in such matters. Trial by social media risks prejudicing the actual trial that we must assume will take place in due course: a situation in which jurors enter the courtroom with preconceptions of guilt, or in which potential defence witnesses feel intimidated by the public mood, is not conducive to justice, and if a judge believes that a fair trial is impossible then the case may collapse.

However, as was shown by reactions to Tommy Robinson’s contempt of court at Canterbury and Leeds, there is apparently an increasing belief that the temporary reporting and commentary restrictions that follow charging decisions – which many of us understand and take for granted – are actually a conspiracy to suppress important information.

Perhaps it doesn’t help that CPS warnings about sub judice appear to be ineffective, as I lamented in 2015, but as regards Tommy Robinson the public ignorance has weaponised by third parties in North America. And this is happening once again with the acid case: thus the Canadian activist Tarek Fatah falsely accuses the BBC of having “covered up for the father by not disclosing names of accused or the motive.”

2 Responses

  1. I think the current idea that publishing any factual comment on the details of a trial, ongoing or in preparation, may jeopardise the mind of jurors and nullify a prosecution is nonsense and we shouldn’t be giving in to what is basically a control mechanism for censorship by the State.

    No Jury comes to a trial completely devoid of the effects of the Mass Media. No Juror is free of all prejudice. Indeed, when it suits the Justice System, as in the persecution of Rolf Harris, for example, a blind-eye is turned to it.

    As I understand it a trial is there to put the facts before a Jury and the Judge is there to advise the Jury on what is salient or peripheral. The idea that justice would not work in a trial in which some jurors enter the courtroom with a fixed idea prejudicial to the person on trial, shows poor confidence in the workings of the Justice System and the impact that FACTS and EVIDENCE have on jurors whether they have initial prejudices or not.

    Censorship on this Acid-Boy case is uncannily similar to that surrounding the attempt by Tony Robinson to debate the issue of Pakistani Networked Abuse. Why we have to ensure an utter clampdown on debate over these important issues is puzzling, particularly because when the same allegations were made about imaginary Satanists doing exactly the same thing (i.e. network abuse of children) in 1990 the Mass media, child protection groups and political commentators had a bean-fest of self-righteous indignation which spanned the headlines of the world.

    Luckily there has never been a single case found of Satanists abusing children in that way in the past 30 years but if there had been would a court have slapped an injunction on the press to stop them reporting it?

    There is a double-standard here which is very disturbing considering the parlous state of the police disclosure scandal now unfolding. It appears that the Establishment has decided to cover-up an issue in the same way that it did the scandal of Priestly Abuse, because it doesn’t know how to deal with the impact of the social repercussions within it’s own class.

    Widespread Priestly Abuse was known but hardly mentioned for decades until the SAFF published its 1991 research into Abusing priests. ( http://saff.nfshost.com/sickvics.htm ) We were of course slated at first by people who didn’t want to accept the truth, but over the years our research has been borne out with facts and Priestly Abuse which was endemic in the Church has now been brought under control. Sadly, not until another few thousand children had been deplorably abused and had their lives messed up. It is always the innocents who have to pay for the intransigence of people in power.

    “Publish and be damned!”

    John Freedom

  2. They can be named before being charged (which is what happened) and can be named abroad (which is what is happening)

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