Saturday, 13 March 2010

'Public wanted to know about Jon Venables'

Society of Editors' executive director Bob Satchwell has defended the way the press has covered the case of Jon Venables.
He says: "It was all a fuss got up by the media of course, according to politicians and some lawyers. Nothing new there then. When they say the papers milked the story simply to sell papers, they are of course correct. That is what papers do.
"What the critics fail to realise is that the papers will only sell if they have content the public wants to read.
And could there be any doubt that the public did want to know why Venables had been recalled? They wanted to know if those monitoring his behaviour had acted properly, how serious were the breaches of conditions of his release.
"The story was simply fed by the fact that the information had to be dragged out of the authorities. Would they have volunteered that he had been recalled?
"Of course there are issues about his right to life and his right to a fair trial. The risks under those headings have to be balanced against the public’s right to know and freedom of expression and therefore the freedom of the media.
"There is no absolute provable risk in either case but there is a huge risk to public confidence in the justice system.
"Secrecy and creeping grudging release of information leads to speculation and suspicion.
That surely could and should have been avoided if someone had thought about and planned for what might happen years ago when Venables and Thompson were convicted then released and given new identities.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw has shown sensible concern for the public’s right to know and media rights recently. In this case when he gave the impression of wanting to be more open he was clearly dragged backwards by lawyers and the men from the ministry."

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