With the prolonged and emotionally charged trial relating to the tragic death of Joanna Yeates finally reaching a conclusion, it has thrown many issues about how a high profile and public interest trial can be effectively conducted in this age of media omnipotence and social media outbursts.
For over a year, this trial has been constantly reported in both the television and print media. The highly publicised nature of proceedings lead to an instance of the dreaded “trial by media” when Joanna’s rather eccentric looking landlord was arrested for questioning. The news and papers pounced upon him, vilifying and humiliating him purely based on his appearance and proximity to the victim. He has, of course, recently been proved totally innocent and has received a payout of almost £500,000 for his year of misery. Should these types of media witch hunts be more tightly regulated by the courts? Did the police feel that they needed to prove they were making progress in an investigation so closely followed?
Now I am the first person to praise the police for the difficult, dangerous and largely thankless task that they perform every day and that is why the idea that they may feel so pressured by the media to turn up a cackling Blofeld style villain as soon as possible is a troubling one indeed.