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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Housekeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is the holding company of an expa...

Recruitment Genius: Network Engineer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Setup, configure, troubleshoot,...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the SNP’s ‘fundamental problem’, says Corbyn, is that too many people support it

John Rentoul
An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai  

China has exposed the fatal flaws in our liberal economic order

Ann Pettifor
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future