Name and shame the GUILTY, not the innocent

If there is one thing that annoys me about the UK justice system, it’s how they allow the media to name and shame the innocent rather than to only allow them to name and shame the guilty.

The newspapers this morning lead with yet another household name on their front covers with allegations of sexual abuse against a minor.

Daily Mirror front page - Name and shame the GUILTY, not the innocent

The Daily Mirror front page today - Naming and shaming someone who hasn’t yet been found guilty.

This decade is fast becoming a sad set of years for those growing up in the 70s and 80s. Whenever a well-loved celebrity appears on the cover of a newspaper it seems to be reporting their death or telling of allegations of abuse against them.

We’ve all seen the likes of Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris rightfully named and shamed.  Unfortunately the details against Saville came only after his death, but the case against Rolf Harris has seen him jailed for his crimes.

Going back to today, the press have seen fit to post details of allegations against Tony Blackburn, which has led to the BBC sacking him.

Yet there has been no criminal charges brought against Blackburn.  He hasn’t been seen in court or found guilty of anything, yet he has lost his job, possibly his livelihood if nobody else takes him on, and has had his name dragged through the mud.

Regardless of whatever happens, he will now be forever associated with the abuse of a girl who tragically committed suicide forty-odd years ago.

Let’s be clear on this.  My issue is not with the lack of respect shown for celebrities, or an attempt to play down alleged abuse.  But I am utterly aghast that yet again someone is allowed to have their name plastered all over the media without evidence against them.

It’s not just celebrities either.  You only need to see local news shows or local newspapers to find that people are being named and shamed in connection with crimes they’ve yet to be convicted for.

It’s more noticeable in high-profile cases.

The police will arrest somebody.  The news will name the person (normally with wording along the lines of “the person was named locally as…”), and that person then gets taken to court.

What does "Named locally as" mean?

A prime example of how the media use “named locally as…” taken from the front page of Google.

If found guilty, they are subject to whatever the UK justice system throws at them,

But if innocent, they have no way of clearing their name.  The damage is already done.  Their name has already been printed in connection with a crime which they were subsequently cleared of.

Just reflect for a second.

What if it was your husband?  Or your wife?  Or a friend or part of your family?  What if somebody you loved was named in connection with a horrific crime and was then found innocent?

How angry would you be?  I know I’d be furious.

The laws in this country need tightening.  By all means name and shame those who have been found guilty in a court of law.

But until that happens, there should be a blanket ban on naming anybody that is connected with a crime.

Lives are being destroyed, reputations ruined and all in the name of sensationalism.  The world would not be worse off for not knowing the name of an alleged offender.

If someone is “named locally” in connection with a crime, then let it stay a local rumour.

The UK justice system needs to change to ensure that innocent (or “as yet not guilty” if you prefer) people have the same right of anonymity as the victims.  There is absolutely no reason not to.

by DannyUK

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