We do not defend the men. They had the opportunity to speak and did not do so. The Mail's stance is bold and shows the law, which has been unable to try the men, to be an ass in this case, but that comes as no surprise. But it makes for a feeling of unease.
The motives of the Mail are confusing. Sceptics have been quick to suggest that the campaign has been started in order to raise circulation, but this suggests a greater degree of cynicism than we have been able to detect in the British press. A more likely explanation is an outburst of ferocious indignation by Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, to whom indignation comes easily and often. Mr Dacre knows the Lawrence family personally. Neville Lawrence, Stephen's father, had worked at Mr Dacre's home and Mr Dacre would have been intimately acquainted with the suffering, frustration and anger of the Lawrence family.
But Mr Dacre has entered a moral maze, and we are compelled to follow him into it. Is his paper going to brand suspects as murderers in every case which fails to reach the right verdict, in a weekly column perhaps? Or will the anger of the Daily Mail be unleashed only when one of its senior executives is personally acquainted with someone involved in a controversial case? And, if this is the case, is that necessarily a wrong way for a newspaper to conduct its business? Finding a way through this maze is troubling because it involves the deep emotions racism arouses, and a belief that the civil liberties of defendants in our courts should be defended at almost any cost. In our hearts, we applaud the Daily Mail. In our heads we know it is wrong. And heads must rule.