OJ- What price for UK law?
10 October 1995
10 October 1995
12 May 1995
18 March 1997
5 November 2001
27 March 2000
I may have stated on Greater London Radio that OJ Simpson would be found guilty but surely this rather pales into insignificance in comparison with commissioning Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz's motions for a mis-trial. I, at least, did not suggest to anyone, jury or otherwise, the social and racial personal ramifications of a guilty verdict.
I consider myself to be in a fairly safe position to observe that fools will insist on rushing in where OJ fears to tread.
On Wednesday last week the case against Geoff Knights was dismissed on the grounds that it was impossible for him to get a fair trial owing to media intervention.
Apart from again raising the question of sequestered juries (but after Simpson we must ask whether even that works), this decision must be described as a brave and admirable one on the part of Judge Roger Sanders.
One must query, however, to what degree he was denied an option and forced into this position by a lack of precipitive action by the Attorney General.
Sanders spoke in his decision of the "outrageous" level of media intrusion, of the journalists as being "unchecked by their editors", yet those journalists were only doing their job, while the Attorney General was failing to do his.
Surely the final checking of the media lies not with editors, whose primary interest is to sell copy rather than deal with the legal implications, but with the Attorney General.
We have now reached a situation where Sir Nicholas Lyell is necessarily, and by his own doing, himself the judge and the accused. It is he who now faces the prospect of taking to task those whom he earlier seduced into believing they were on "safe ground".
Perhaps the point which is of greatest interest since Sanders' decision on Knights is the reaction from Scottish journalists and lawyers who seem unable to comprehend this situation being allowed to arise. One remembers the judicial comment when The Sun was sued in Scotland last year, that there appeared to be some discrepancy in the standards set for and adhered to by the English and the Scottish media. Contrasting the two nations' manner of pre-trial reporting and the respect paid to those involved is something of an embarrassment for the English.
The current legal climate (both national - the Knights decision and the commencement of the West trial - and international following Simpson) must finally persuade us, and more pertinently, the Attorney General, that our contempt laws must be enforced. It is only in this way that we can genuinely reveal to the public that which they have a right to know while moving towards the possibility of, for example, televised civil trials as a valuable exercise which overcomes the need to resort to outcomes such as those necessarily reached in the Taylor Sisters and Knight cases. As I almost said before, fools rush in where AG's fear to tread.
About OJ Simpson I was (perhaps) wrong. But about the legal media position in England there is little question.
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