ANOTHER VIEW : No more trial by tabloid

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The Independent Online
On Monday two judges in the High Court ruled against our attempt to force the Attorney General to prosecute the newspapers, whose biased and exaggerated reporting led to our being wrongly convicted of murder. Fortunately, the Court of Appeal realised the injustice that was done and found us innocent. But even though the Appeal Court judges agreed that the reporting was "unremitting, extensive, sensational, inaccurate and misleading", some of the public still feel we were guilty because of the unfair press coverage.

We were in the middle of a circulation war between the tabloids. All we want is that the newspapers should print accurately what happens in court. Now they are in competition with each other to get out whatever they can first, no matter how unfair it is. It shouldn't be that way. One extra paper sold is not worth an innocent person going to jail. Our hope is that by trying to get the Attorney General to prosecute papers that break the law, we may keep another innocent person from suffering as we did.

We believe our case has made a difference. This is because the Attorney General has already begun to change his policy. For example, he's started to warn the press in advance about reporting cases in the public eye. This first happened this month in the war crimes trial. If it weren't for our case, we don't think he would have begun to be so concerned. After all, it is very rare for this government to have a go at the tabloid press.

Our next step is to go to the House of Lords. We knew it would be difficult to persuade the High Court, because the judges there don't seem able to force the Attorney General to prosecute the press, even if they think he has got it wrong. But the House of Lords will understand the importance of making the Attorney General accountable to the courts to see that justice is done for all.

If we aren't careful, we'll end up with OJ Simpson-style trial by media. It is very important to limit the damage being done by prejudicial reporting. We didn't actually see the things that were being written about us until after our trial, when our solicitor showed us the clippings, but we both cried when we read that stuff. We couldn't believe we were reading about ourselves. The girls in the stories didn't seem like us because what was written wasn't true. The famous photograph, where they turned a peck on the cheek into a lingering kiss, is just one example of how we were demonised in the eyes of the public and the jury.

Press reporting of a trial is fine, but not press comment on the evidence. We should go back to the old-fashioned style of court reporting that protected the defendants' rights to a fair trial, but this won't happen if the Attorney General doesn't prosecute newspapers that break the law.

The writers' convictions for murder, in July 1992, were quashed by the Court of Appeal in June 1994.

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