Matthew Norman: Should justice be seen to complain?


After another contentious week for David Eady, it's high time to spring to our leading libel judge's assistance.

To this end, I will approach the Charity Commission in the new year with a view to setting up Friends of Eady (FOE). The latest controversy concerns his outlawing of the publication of Tiger Woods pictures freely available online, which regrettably excited more of the carping that swirls around this latter-day Solomon like flies around a cow's arse. The problem, it seems to me, is this. Unimpeachably fair-minded and even-handed though we know Eady J to be, a clear question of natural justice rears its head. Can it be right and seemly for someone to pass judgment on those he openly resents? Only last week, "friends" revealed that Eady J has been "profoundly hurt" by media criticism (a claim he has yet to deny), while he recently used a public speech to accuse newspapers of "personal attacks".

We could argue that toss, submitting that these attacks are more professional than personal, but more relevant is the old saw that justice must not only be done but be seen to be done. If and when the Daily Mail comes before him, for instance, how could he be expected to put from that sensitive mind the memory that it has savaged him for "moral and social nihilism" and "arrogance"? Surely there would at least be the appearance of a conflict of interest, and he would obviously wish to recuse himself. After all, according to the Guide to Judicial Conduct, "... personal animosity towards a party is a compelling reason for disqualification". Whether "profound hurt" inevitably leads to "personal animosity" is debatable, but the suspicion would arise. It is this sort of issue that FOE will strive to resolve, and I implore all of you in this business to join once the Charity Commission gives its consent.

Mad Mel strikes again

One option FOE is certain to explore is hiring Freud Communications to run a PR campaign designed to get Mr Eady promoted to the Supreme Court, thereby leapfrogging the Court of Appeal that so foolishly keeps reversing him. Not that even our highest court is immune from vitriol, of course, and Melanie Phillips spits a mouthful its way on her blog. Her usual equanimity seems disturbed by the ruling that a school is not entitled to refuse pupils admission because it deems them insufficiently orthodox to qualify as Jewish.

This was a finely balanced and deeply fascinating case, examining the relationship between race, ethnicity and religious observance, so forgive Mad Mel for going too far to reflect the complexities involved. The decision was "absurd and incoherent", she writes, accusing Supreme Court President Lord Phillips – whom she seems to regard as that mythical beast, the self-loathing Jew – of "astounding and sinister arrogance". Try to read "An illiberal and ignorant judgment" if you can. As I never tire of repeating, no sky is so grey, no raincloud so black, no heart so heavy that a few minutes in MM's company could fail to banish the gloom.

Live and kicking

With its finances so precarious despite Simon Cowell, ITV shows a gift for husbanding resources. Who knows how it afforded the rights to the football match every broadcaster wanted, but what a masterstroke to screen Thursday's Europa League fixture between Steua Bucharest and FC Twente live on ITV2. I'd love to see the rating, just to compare them to the few hundred in the Romanian crowd.

Breaking with tradition

Speaking of Mr Cowell, I was struck by his claim that the BBC displayed bias by trying to prevent Joe McElderry having the Christmas number one. Clearly there was a conspiracy reaching to the very top – BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons downloaded Killing In The Name 723 times on Friday alone – and if Simon has taught us anything, it's that cynicism has no place in the purist world of pop. Still, one presenter had the courage to rage against the machine. "Buy Joe's record," 5 Live's Shelagh Fogherty instructed listeners after Joe's rivals had stuck to their original text and sung the word "fuck" during a live performance on her breakfast show. Several leading media professors are already citing this as Shelagh's most impressive show of independent-mindedness since she crossed a picket line in 2005.

The curses of Kelvin

News that an independent panel will release a vast number of documents about the Hillsborough disaster turns our thoughts to Kelvin MacKenzie. Kelvin doesn't know from one day to the next what he thinks on this one, sometimes apologising profusely for his coverage as Sun editor and sometimes defiantly sticking by it. Perhaps these documents will clarify his thinking, for a day or two at least. In the meantime, he devotes part of his Friday column to ridiculing Murdochian brethren. He describes David Blunkett as "that idiot", knowing that Rebekah Wade paid Blunkers a fortune to share his idiocy in a Sun column barely less lamented than Gaunty's. Kelvin also has a swipe at The Times, choosing the day after its medical correspondent speculated that the terminally ill Lockerbie bomber's prolonged absence from hospital may mean he is near death to report a £500 bet with William Hill that Mr al-Megrahi will be alive in August.

A plea for silence

Elsewhere in The Times, finally, Field Marshal the Lord Aaronovitch takes a new path (don't ask) towards justifying his fervent championing of the invasion of Iraq. Tempting as it is to borrow from Canrobert by telling this armchair Earl Cardigan: "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre", that's too stale and long-winded. Shut it, slaaag, must suffice.

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