Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Evenin' all

This week saw the conclusion of two particularly ghastly murder trials. Call it trivial of me, in the face of such depressing evidence of the depths of human brutishness, but I do wonder about the strange modern ritual (it seems to have been happening only in the last 15 years or so) where various people connected with the trial - and principally the chief investigating police officer - make a formal statement to the waiting media outside the courtroom.

One can't begrudge the bereaved their chance to speak: they've tended to be overlooked in the judicial process (though there are good reasons why "justice" is not just about satisfying the victim).

However, what strikes me as quite wrong is for the police officer in charge of the investigation to be expected - as now seems to be the regular routine - to make any public statement about the crime, the criminal, the trial and the judgement. It's almost like reviving those little homilies that used to close Dixon of Dock Green ("Harry's going to have a good long time to think over what he's done, and he won't be doing that again in a hurry. And young Danny's settled down - I don't think he'll be troubling us again...."), only this is about real people: it implies that the police who investigate a crime have some special insight into what should happen as a result. And they don't, any more than the rest of us do. Our job is to elect the people who decide what is and is not a crime, and what the range of punishments should be; the police's job is to find out the evidence as to who did what, when and how. There are good reasons why we have juries and judges to take it from there.

There are already too many occasions on which the police and the media are too closely in cahoots for comfort (strange how often the TV crews manage to be on the right spot to record particularly high-profile arrests). The desire for "a good story" (even when it's turning out to be an almost formulaic, going through the motions, cliché) shouldn't be allowed greater prominence than the proper operations of the criminal justice system.

Enough sententiousness. I'm feeling quite pleased with myself, actually. When Claude's remarks on Blogger's commenting system persuaded me to use Haloscan instead, I didn't realise it would no longer display the comments already made. Blogger's edit mode showed me those comments must still exist somewhere, but they wouldn't display in any obvious use of either system. But eventually, I managed to track down the right combination of URLs and codes to access the relevant Blogger page, and to copy them into Haloscan. So the wise words of Daphne and Max on Doris's crack are once again on view.

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