Leading article: A tawdry story with no heroines

Share
Related Topics
LUCILLE McLAUCHLAN and Deborah Parry are not heroines. It is not clear that they are victims. They may even be guilty of murder - that was, after all, the finding of a properly constituted Saudi court basing its judgment on an old and hallowed body of law. They say they were intimidated, invalidating the confessions they made. What is the balance of credibility? Too much uncertainty swirls around their story to allow any conclusion but this: red carpets, publicists, fat cheques and film scripts are entirely misplaced. Worse, they point to a growing national tendency in this country, exhibited most recently in the Louise Woodward au pair case, to prejudge foreign courts and substitute the wettest of sentiment for the dry-eyed pursuit of justice.

This is a story which does few of its participants much credit - except, possibly, King Fahd, whose exercise of royal prerogative on behalf of the nurses surely now qualifies him for the award of the Garter (which seems to be a flexible diplomatic resource these days). Dignity is missing in equal measure from the conduct of the murder victim's brother and the convicted nurses' families. The British administrative machine, including the Prime Minister, has been mobilised for the sake of two prisoners no more deserving of political attention than a score of others languishing in foreign jails. The British press is feeding frenziedly and once again the Press Complaints Commission's code of practice stands exposed as a rather flexible document.

It is what lies behind this tawdry saga that gives rise to deeper anxieties about our age. Since the 17th century Britons have gone overseas in large numbers to seek employment and adventure. Most have been prepared to play by the rules of the game. Commit an offence abroad and accept the judicial consequences. Only in egregious circumstances where, for example, foreign authorities have deliberately targeted British nationals or arrested citizens for political crimes did British governments get exercised. Now, however, a new mood is abroad. Young women - gender is an important part of it - arrested smuggling drugs into countries which are known across the globe for their restrictive laws suddenly get transformed into lionesses of the press and public and then a vote-hungry No 10 Downing Street gets on their case.

In the Saudi instance, prejudice has all along coloured responses. Of course, there are universal standards which should govern trial and the handling of prisoners: most people would agree that torture and execution are never justified. But in a diverse world, we must tolerate different systems of trial and incarceration. The Saudis are not the only objects of judicial chauvinism. The French have lately been portrayed as a nation along whose streets stumble serial killers by the score - yet on any objective analysis French society is broadly the same as British in terms of public safety and police efficacy.

McLauchlan and Parry are fortunate. Women with more self-respect than they evidently possess would evade the crowds and the cameras and fade as best they can into this country - leaving the rest of us to hope against hope that their protestations of innocence are true.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
Photo match: Nicola Sturgeon on the balance beam on 27 April. Just like that other overnight sensation, Russian Olympian Olga Korbut, in 1972  

Election catch-up: SNP surge, Ed Balls’s giraffe noises, and Cameron’s gaffe

John Rentoul
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk