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Is this legal?

My knowledge of media law – or at least, the bits that don’t really apply to my particular niche – is rather rusty, but isn’t there some law that prevents identification of suspects? Today’s Sun can’t be legal, surely?

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13 replies on “Is this legal?”

If it isn’t illegal then it should be.

The whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing is meaningless now. It doesn’t matter if these two guys are guilty or not. I feel really sorry for them if they are innocent as their lives have probably now been destroyed.

I rolled my eyes when I saw the Sun this morning. They have a 20 year old photo of the supposed suspect apparently strangling his second wife – he must be guilty then.

The tabloids must have been jumping with glee when this story came along.

The law is that their names aren’t to be released, yes, but it’s been ignored for some time. There was a brief stage where the BBC insistently obeyed the law while everyone else ignored it, so that the BBC would report “A man has been arrested” while you could switch over to ITV and hear “Tom Roberts, a plumber from Bristol, has been arrested.” I suspect the BBC finally caved because that seemed stupid. Fact is that The Sun and other tabloids will give small cash gifts to anyone who contacts them with the suspect’s name, and most police stations contain at least one person who’ll take that money. Worth remembering when we’re told about the security of the ID Card database.

> the US trial-by-media system

Interestingly enough, they name suspects for the same reason we (in theory) don’t: to protect them. The police have to name anyone they arrest in the US to ensure that the suspect’s friends and family hear about it and can rally to his defense; it’s to stop the state disappearing people. In other words, their system is actually based on the assumption that anyone arrested is innocent — as, of course, they are until proven guilty. In the UK, we’re supposed to have presumption of innocence, but the very fact that the law forbids the release of suspects’ names shows that both the public and the law really assume that anyone arrested must be guilty.

I think that tells you a lot about the difference between Brits and Americans.

Oh, I thought it was a joke mock-up of The Sun. Only because surely no self respecting woman would actually date Noel Edmonds?

The word verification for this comment is cake. Mmmmm…. cake.

I’m pretty sure that the rules apply from the second someone’s arrested (not charged), and the media can be done for contempt if it does anything to prejudice a potential future trial. Whether the current coverage is prejudicial’s a judgment call, I think.

From time to time I’m reminded why I never read the Sun. This is shocking. It’s disgraceful.

We do not need to know at this time about the men who are being questioned. If (hopefully when) there is a conviction, we will be deluged with background stuff. Leave it till then.

In the meantime, what is it that we say in the UK? No, I don’t mean “no smoke without fire”, but innocent until proven guilty.

They appear to have charged the second guy so obviously the papers will be full of apologies for the first one.

I think most of the media coverage has been pretty bad for this case. Also the fact that most media outlets doing on the spot broadcasts can’t be helping the Police as they go about their business.

Hi Paul. I think you’re right, the coverage so far has often been appalling. Certainly the media have been warned about their interviewing, because people may be potential witnesses.

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