AS IF the Attorney General didn't have enough to worry about, what with fire-fighting Twitter trolls who overhear something interesting from A Bloke in the Pub and then recycle it as fact, even the cops are now causing him grief by driving a black maria through the Contempt of Court Act.
Some of the recently information included in official police statements and media interviews by senior officers – reported, I assume, with some element of privilege – would have given any newspaper lawyer of my acquaintance the hebee-gebees had they turned up in a reporter's copy. Principal offenders are Greater Manchester Police, who seem to have decided that the alleged crimes of Dale Cregan are so heinous that the substantial risk of serious prejudice simply doesn't apply to him.
And if you're finding this as bewildering as I am, stand by for another confused law introduced this week which now grants teachers such as Jeremy Forrest – finally found, we are told, as a result of media coverage – automatic anonymity unless that has been overturned by a magistrate. There are a number of reasons why this is a bad law, and one vigorously opposed by the Society of Editors. The Department of Education blithely insists that media organisations would be able to go to court and apply for an order lifting teacher anonymity: “This will not affect cases like the one currently getting national attention.”
Bollocks. We all know what happens once the expensive and time-consuming option of going to law involves. Any application would be bound to be opposed, and once the social workers, the probation officers, the psychiatrists, the unions, the Leveson-lovers and any other assorted do-gooders got involved, any sense of urgency would have been long lost and pursuing the application would have become as pointless as playing Scissors-Paper-Brick with Abu Hamza.
There is also, on the more pragmatic level that never occurs to law-makers, the playground dilemma. If a child claims to have been assaulted, his or her parents would be forbidden from discussing it with other parents or even with teachers. It's a legalised conspiracy of silence, which does nothing for child safety and everything to protect the accused and we already have laws for that. If only someone would remind the police…
A COUPLE of weeks ago I wrote about the human toll of the relentless 'reorganisation' of our industry; of those hard-working professionals who now faced the mortgage, marriage and even health-related impact of what might, in some cases, turn out to be an ill-fated flight of fancy on the part of a greedy and misguided management. For that I was branded a 'Luddite' on the Press Gazette website.
Well if caring about fellow journalists who now face vastly changed lives because of the ineptitude and intransigence of others further up the food chain, then I plead guilty. And that was before it was triumphantly announced that Northcliffe had managed to shed another 298 jobs in the last year alone. Doubles and dole queues all round!