Friday, 22 May 2009

Blogs threatened Baby Peter cases

The people responsible for the death of Baby Peter have been jailed. However, as BBC News reports, these prison terms were put at risk by internet hate campaigns.
Vigilante-style websites which are determined to name and shame the mother of Baby Peter and her boyfriend almost wrecked their second trial for the rape and neglect of a two-year-old child.
Their efforts to "out" the identities of the couple - who still cannot be named for legal reasons - could even have led to some of those responsible for Baby Peter's death receiving far lesser sentences than the ones they did.
It raises further questions on how justice can continue to operate in high-profile cases when judge's orders can be so easily broken by bloggers.
Reporting restrictions on the media after the Baby Peter trial prevented any information about his mother and boyfriend facing a second trial being made public.
Despite efforts by the mainstream media to challenge the orders, the press was placed in a position that to even mention the second trial could have resulted in a substantial fine or even imprisonment for contempt of court.
The public could only be told that the couple's sentencing - and that of their lodger Jason Owen who was also found guilty of causing or allowing Peter's death but did not feature in the second trial - was being delayed for legal reasons.
Before the second trial even started, defence lawyers for the couple argued forcefully that any jury trying the mother and boyfriend would be prejudiced if they knew who was in the dock in front of them.
They said the defendants were perceived by the public in the same way as the Soham murderer and his girlfriend and that more than half a million people had already signed internet petitions demanding justice for Peter.

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