Thursday, 6 January 2011

Murder hunt reveals strained relations

Joanna Yeates's landlord, who was arrested over the disappearance of the landscape architect and later released, may yet be compensated generously for his public humiliation and ridicule.
Former English master Chris Jefferies has already announced that he is considering suing police for wrongful arrest. But far more lucrative will be the writs he could issue for libel against practically every media outlet in the land.
The rawest trainee reporter is taught that you don’t imply guilt against anyone until arrest and trial are over. Otherwise you can be at risk of contempt of court and defamation.
But hardly had he been questioned by police than TV, radio and newspapers were calling him Mr Weird, reporting alleged instances of alleged bullying against pupils at schools at which he taught, and even suggesting he might have been involved in another death of a young woman a generation previously.
If he gets his hands on a decent lawyer, he could have pay-outs that would dwarf a national lottery rollover.
Many nationals have been quick to try to minimise the damage, quoting friends as saying he expects to be cleared of any involvement in the death 'within days'.
The 65-year-old, who was questioned by detectives for three days before being released on bail, wrote in an e-mail that 'the ordeal is almost over'. The ordeal may only just be starting for Editors and their minions who allowed such prejudicial reporting in the first place.
This no doubt adds to the stresses in the relationship between police and the media, which culminated in officers investigating the murder of Jo Yeates to ban ITV News from a press conference.
The move came after reporter Geraint Vincent suggested detectives were not carrying out routine inquiries properly during last night's News at Ten.
Bristol and Avon police hit back by complaining to Ofcom for what it called 'unfair, naïve and irresponsible reporting' during the piece to camera.
Detective Chief Inspector Phil Jones - who is described as a highly experienced officer -has come under increasing pressure to make a breakthrough in the 'complex' investigation.
During the contentious report, a former murder squad detective suggested that 'certain routine inquiries' such as a new painstaking search of the scene where the body was found had not been carried out.
Meanwhile, the police officer in charge of the investigation took an apparent side swipe at a national newspaper by rubbishing the significance of CCTV pictures published in The Daily Mirror.
Days after her body was found, Miss Yeates' father David claimed his family were being kept in the dark by police investigating the killing.
It is all very unsavoury and unhelpful to the investigation. Behind the rows lie around quarter of a century of worsening relations between police and the media.
Ever since the Human Rights Convention was adopted by Britain and Data Protection laws were introduced, police have tried to control what the media report and filter information through media departments instead of letting officers form relationships with journalists they believe they can trust.
A generation of police officers treats the media as untrustworthy, unscrupulous and intrusive. A generation of journalists treats the police as obstructive, unhelpful and hostile.
It is no wonder they fall out so spectacularly.

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