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Jo Yeates' landlord

(36 Posts)
4c4good Fri 29-Jul-11 19:28:53

I am very glad that the Sun and Mirror have been found to be in contempt of court; with their coverage potentially jeopardising his chances of a fair trial, had he been charged with this young woman's murder.

I'm glad for a number of reasons, but I salute the wise mumsnetters who warned last December of the real risks of repeating the shrill and irresponsible allegations they had seen in the tabloid press where a completely innocent man was openly judged to have murdered his young female tenant and was also linked to an unsolved murder 30 years before.

Why? Because he looked mildly eccentric, once dyed his hair blue, had a passion for music and poetry, and was possibly gay. He's also won substantial damages for libel. Good!

lalalonglegs Fri 29-Jul-11 19:34:08

It was appalling coverage and another blow for poor journalism.

hester Fri 29-Jul-11 19:38:00

Absolutely. The way he was hounded was stomach-turning.

Feenie Fri 29-Jul-11 19:40:56

Some of the postings on MN at that time were vile. Had MNHQ not been so efficient at deleting all the utterly moronic posts linking his appearance with his certain guilt at the time, then presumably he could have sued the pants off MN too.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 30-Jul-11 08:27:06

It was a landmark case, certainly. It is very rare for a successful contempt of court prosecution when the subject of the stories had not been charged with a crime but merely arrested on suspicion. Newspapers can continue to report and name suspects but maybe they'll be rather more careful about how far they go in future.

Wormshuffler Sat 30-Jul-11 08:34:40

I sincerely hope it changes the way that the media reports arrests in connection to crime. I mean look at the nurse who has recently been arrested for allegedly spiking the drips of patients. What if it turns out she didn't do it? Her picture has been all over the media too. Will she get a fair trial?
The press shouldn't be allowed to do it, trial by media.

franke Sat 30-Jul-11 08:39:53

Agree with wormshuffler. And there was that guy who was questioned in the early stages of the Madeleine McCann enquiry, Robert Murat (?). His life, and that of his elderly mother were destroyed by tabloid journalists. Unforgiveable.

franke Sat 30-Jul-11 08:48:35

Murat got damages paid too, I hadn't realised. That's something I suppose.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 30-Jul-11 08:57:57

In the case of the nurse accused of harming patients, she is now charged with the crime which means the newspapers cannot print stories about her until the trial is concluded. In her case, I've not been aware of particularly intrusive or sensationalist coverage. Her name and picture have appeared but that's normal.

CustardCake Sat 30-Jul-11 17:46:56

I agree.
I hate hate hate the press treatment of people in cases like this. It is a complete witch hunt. Like the couple whose little girl was savaged by a fox in her own home and all the press put out stories doubting their version of events and dragging up experts who said it was impossible or must have been a dog. But of course that couple were innocent too and not lying yet they suffered abuse from animal rights and anti-hunt people who believed press strories that they supported fox hunting etc.

I hope the amount that the papers was forced to pay is absolutely astronomical and then maybe they will actually start to respect the truth that all people are completely innocent and should be taken at their word unless or until a court finds them guilty.

AnansiGirl Sat 30-Jul-11 17:51:15

I agree Feenie, and I'm going to be a bit hmm if this thread becomes an opportunity to point at the media.
MN threads about it at the time were full of posters who 'felt in their waters' 'trusted their instincts' and knew he was a baddun because of his hair and his eccentricities.
I was on those threads as well, and you took a lot of stick and didn't back down, despite being challenged throughout.
I hope he enjoys the money.

AnansiGirl Sat 30-Jul-11 17:52:43

By all means slag off irresponsible reporting, but include the witch hunting by right-thinking posters on MN as well, is what I meant to say.

CustardCake Sat 30-Jul-11 18:16:08

Agree AnansiGirl - the hysteria about the girl attacked by the fox was a MN thread I remember for the sheer hysteria and insistence that the poor parents must be lying, that it just didn't make any sense, that the parents might be were lying to cover up the fact that they secretly owned an aggressive dog, that anyone who said London foxes regularly enter houses was lying, that the experts must be right and that perhaps these people wanted the fox hunting ban overturned. It is awful how these things spiral but obviously worse in newspapers because, although this is a public forum, it isn't plastered all over TV and newspapers day-in day-out in the way that anyone the press decides to tear apart is

Feenie Sat 30-Jul-11 18:25:57

Thanks for the support, Anansigirl. smile

I suppose it isn't much different to the loonies who crowd any thread that is started about Madeleine McCann, they're just as bad.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 31-Jul-11 08:20:01

There is a massive difference between a few private individuals speculating about a current case on an internet message board, and speculation or inaccuracies being published by national newspapers that draw a readership of millions. The first is the equivalent of a gossip round the water cooler, is harmless and cannot be construed as libel. The second is much greater scale and is influential enough to prejudice the outcome of a court case.

Feenie Sun 31-Jul-11 08:24:45

I would agree with you that the second is on a much greater scale. But I totally disagree that internet gossip is harmless and cannot be construed as libel - you only have to look at MN's own case with She Who Must Not Be Named for conclusive proof of that.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 31-Jul-11 08:42:04

I've no idea who you mean, I'm afraid. There is a point at which harmless speculation tips over into illegality but, in most threads on these & other boards, that point is never reached.

Feenie Sun 31-Jul-11 09:11:33

MN libel case

Every single Madeleine McCann thread that is started on here 'tips over' and is pulled.

The case of poor Joanna Yeates was far from harmless - I saw threads where many friends and family members were accused, ending with the landlord being villified. As her boyfriend said at the time:
"''Jo's life was cut short tragically but the finger-pointing and character assassination by social and news media of as yet innocent men has been shameful."

Doesn't sound like 'harmless gossip around a water cooler' to me. MN has 1.3 million members who make 25000 posts a day - a big water cooler needed then. hmm

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 31-Jul-11 09:37:49

MN settled out of court didn't they? I can see why they'd take precautions e.g. removing threads on sensitive subjects, but the concept of 'libel via message board' doesn't look as though it has been proven..

Speculation a suspect nurse or how a pop-star met her death or the motives of a mass-killer in Norway are still legitimate topics of conversation. I've seen some truly appalling things written on MN about the PM, Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Wade recently - mass hysteria appears to be alive and well. But if we value free speech, we have to accept that some contributors will get carried away.

Feenie Sun 31-Jul-11 09:43:54

They settled out of court because they had to! Why else would they?!

Mass hysteria is indeed alive and well. But that doesn't mean that some contributors shouldn't be deleted or challenged, or that we should dismiss it as harmless gossip, when it isn't.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 31-Jul-11 09:49:47

They didn't have to - I've been reading about it since you mentioned it. They could have seen the case through quite easily. But I suspect, if there was some risk of the case going against them, the option of settling was far cheaper. The landlord in this case has done the same thing... the newspapers could let him have his day in court but have decided paying up is the lesser of two evils.

Feenie Sun 31-Jul-11 10:05:22

Ye-es. hmm The implication being that both MN and the newspapers may have had to pay far more - there was a very real risk, so they settled out of court. If MN could have 'seen it through easily', then they would have chosen that option instead.

AnansiGirl Sun 31-Jul-11 10:06:11

I have two children that are both eccentric, one has a dx of Asperger's.
The thing that really worried me on that thread was how very quickly a man who was regarded as odd, not mainstream and with distinctive mannerisms was marginalised by posters on here, speculations as to his appearance and behaviour were made and a lot of people became convinced that he must be guilty because of his looks and life choices.
Out came the metaphorical pitchforks, the kangaroo court was constructed and he was judged right here by many. For his hairstyle, his difference.
I understand how paranoia and fear can rule some people, but I worry about the prejudice, exclusion and potential targeting of my children by people such as some of those on that thread.
I said it at the time, and I will say it next time the hysterical and unfounded squealing of 'Oooh, he looks evil he does, and he's weird. He must have done (insert random crime)' is heard.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 31-Jul-11 10:08:25

Ford's lawyers would also have been advising her to settle if they thought there was a chance the case would be thrown out and she'd have to pay costs. If she'd been 100% confident of a win she would have been awarded a far bigger amount. Cuts both ways.

seeker Sun 31-Jul-11 10:12:47

And I do hope all the mums netters who "just knew" he was a wrong 'un and "said to my hubby you mark my words, he's the guilty one" "you can always tell" and "I had a feeling" are now hanging their heads in shame.

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