Having had no reason to be involved in the press before it came as quite a shock to me how much they can impact an already difficult situation.
The reports in the papers started that a vulnerable man had been killed by a teenage thug, how did they know he was a thug? whats the definition of thug? the definition is a ruffian, hoodlum,bullyboy,bandit,mugger,gangster,terroroist,gunman,murderer,killer,hitman,
After my sons arrest because he was only 16 his identity was protected and im forever thankful for that although local gossips quickly identified him and most local people knew who he was. Initially the papers reported there had been an arrest and then that someone had been charged with manslaughter which you could say was in the public interest but now with newspapers having social media sites it meant that people we able to comment on and share the story. At this point no evidence had been heard in court and my son had not been found guilty but yet because of the stories it allowed people to comment naming him and me in the comments. The newspapers were not allowed to print his name but a way around that is to allow comments to be made on the story and then not police it to have names removed.
The comments varied from people who said they were there and were not, to certain people naming me and what I did for a living, a particular lady who had children at the same school as my son said she had had many an argument with me over my son being a bully this was totally untrue she had never spoken to me I had proof from the school that this had never happened and actually this mother was bared from the school for threatening staff!! but there was no one to remove her lies and so then this lady made friends with the family of the dead man citing my son had always been a problem and helped from their campaign some months later. my She also went on to say on this social media site who my nephew was and for anyone reading should keep their children away from any members of my family as they were all bad my heart broke because my nephews are both adorable and the thought people could judge my whole family . Also after the case a whole discussion attached to the papers facebook site stating my sister in law who is a solicitor must have done some kind of favour regarding her knickers for my son to have got such a low sentence.
Plea hearing was difficult as we knew the family and the press would be there, there is no area to keep us separate from the victims family and we weren’t allowed to have contact with them and even if I thought my son wasn’t to blame I wish we could have said sorry because I felt it just came across that we didn’t care and that was so far from the truth. Once inside the court the charge was read out the options were guilty or not guilty but it isn’t always as simple as that and although my son never ever denied he threw a punch and because of the circumstance’s the solicitor said it would be a not guilty plea because in the eyes of the law you are legally entitled to throw a punch if you even mistakenly believe you would be in danger yourself. There was also the post mortem result which had originally proved inconclusive for the cause of death and the second post mortem wasn’t back yet so the plea was not guilty.
Once outside the court the press ran after my son and were right in his face with cameras this was pointless because they couldn’t print them but they just printed them with his face blanked out. This again was shared repeatedly on social media naming us all with all the keyboard warriors going to town on town with comments.
Things settled down until the trial began with little being published in the papers but that didn’t last long the press started again outside the crown court even taking pictures of us entering the court. Once inside the court on that first day the reporter sat in the press box until the prosecutions opening statement was read out but left before the defence was read out the opening statements were completely different but yet accusations that were in the prosecution opening satatement were disproven by the judge but yet were the headlines in the papers for many weeks even after the trial ended.
I do understand that newspapers need to print stories that are in the public interest but once the journalists decide on a specific case they will not leave you alone. In my sons case it was reported every day of the trial with most days being front page and then almost every day for 3 weeks after the trial they obviously reported the guilty verdict, they then picked on the fact that he was allowed to go home for a week whilst the sentence was decided, then because he got a lower sentence, then the family stories each one of these stories then appeared on social media so for what felt months people were commenting for my son to be hung, that is heart breaking to read.
A few weeks after my sons case another one punch case nearby where the culprit had been much older and had many previous convictions only made page 8 on one day, how is that not more of an interest to the public than my sons case? my son had no violent past he came from a loving home and was out playing football with his friends on the night this happened and he threw one punch, I do believe my father brother and husband have all thrown a punch in their life so this could easily have been them. I have never condoned violence of any kind and I would never say or indicate this man deserved to die and I know and accept my son threw that punch but it isn’t fair what the press did I will never believe a word written in a newspaper.
In the judges sentencing report it was stated that because of the way the press acted towards my son his anonymity would be protected for life the judge said
I am aware there has been reports made in the newspapers which bears little resemblance to the facts established at your trial , I do think it got the backs up off the reporter because I think he had his pictures and story ready for the sentencing day so when he still wasn’t allowed to print could be on of the reasons they continued to campaign for him to be named. The stories went on that the family were appealing because of my sons low sentence which again fuelled the keyboard warriors on social media. The case ended up not being referred to the appeal court because my sons sentence was in line with what is recommended.
I did complain to the press standards agency and at first it seemed like the papers would need to apologise and the paper did contact me and it seems that the things we complained about were allowed to be printed because it had been suggested by the prosecution although subsequently proven to be untrue. There is also no law that a story has to be told from both sides as a member of the public this realisation shocked me that basically the press decide which side they want to print and as the public we don’t have a right to read both sides. I wont ever believe a word written by any journalist ever again it is sickening