Richard Ingrams: Don't bow to those who get a kick out of ghoulish images


Some viewers may find the following scenes disturbing.

As a regular viewer of Channel 4 News I am by now very familiar with that formula, repeated, as it is, almost every night, and it always provokes the response: in that case why are you showing them to us?

The answer that would be given, I know, is that the producers believe it to be important that viewers should be confronted with the true horrors of warfare, torture, earthquakes and executions, even early in the evening when children may be watching, and before the mythical so-called watershed.

Those producers are perfectly well aware that, although there are plenty of people who will find the scenes disturbing, there are plenty more who are by now hardened to the sight of atrocities of one kind or another. They are equally well aware that there is a significant, possibly dangerous minority who actually get a kick out of watching graphic scenes of mutilated corpses, vicious beatings, torture, etc.

You can't disguise the fact that a whole lot of media ghouls will be disappointed that they will not be allowed to see pictures of the dead Osama bin Laden. Those TV producers would have no hesitation in showing them – with the customary warning of course – if only Barack Obama wasn't being so prudish and unco-operative.

Tomlinson decree brings more questions

Now that a jury has decreed that the news vendor Ian Tomlinson was "unlawfully killed" during the G20 demonstration of 2009, attention has turned once again to the pathologist Dr Freddy Patel who originally declared that Tomlinson had died as the result of a heart attack.

It was Dr Patel's decision and the fact that he had disposed of blood samples that earlier led the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, to rule out a prosecution of the police officer responsible for pushing Tomlinson to the ground. Whether or not Mr Starmer now changes his mind, Dr Patel is likely to be expected to play the traditional role of scapegoat, and the General Medical Council is already gearing up to investigate his conduct in the Tomlinson affair.

But if anyone should be investigated it ought to be the General Medical Council itself which was culpably slow to discipline Dr Patel for previous errors, thus allowing him to continue to practise as a pathologist. Then there is the original coroner, Dr Paul Matthews, who appointed Dr Patel to carry out the post-mortem on Tomlinson, apparently quite unaware of his appalling record which included the failure to spot a murder victim, and equally unaware that among his fellow pathologists his name was mud.

Mis-speaking and other mis-takes

In her unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic domination in 2008, Hillary Clinton frequently described how on a trip to Bosnia in 1996 she had to dodge the bullets on alighting from her plane. When later a film was produced showing a smiling Clinton being greeted at the airport by a welcoming party of little children, she explained that on those previous occasions she had been "mis-speaking". Unkind observers such as myself took this to mean that she had been telling a lie.

So what are we to make of reports this week that Lloyds bank, along with most of the other big banks, have been "mis-selling" payment protection insurance (PPI) to millions of their customers? Those seeking a loan from the bank were persuaded by Lloyds' salesmen to take out an insurance policy to protect them in the event that they were unable to keep up repayments. But for technical reasons, they had no chance of making a claim. Not surprisingly, those people investing in PPI tended to be the more vulnerable and gullible of the bank's customers.

Lloyds has now reluctantly agreed to compensate its customers. But we are left to wonder if mis-speaking means lying, what does mis-selling amount to? And is that a suitable question for Keir Starmer to consider once he has made a decision in the Tomlinson case?