Chris Jeffries: Sacrificed by the media

On Christmas Day the body of young architect, Joanna Yates was found, her landlord was brought in for questioning on suspicion of her murder leading to a feeding frenzy by the press.

Chris Jeffries has been sacrificed by the media. Image: mjsonline

Joanna’s partner was so disgusted that he released a statement saying: “Jo’s life was cut short tragically but the finger-pointing and character assassination by social and news media of as yet innocent men has been shameful.”

Allegations in the media about the 65 year old retired teacher Chris Jefferies include questions about his sexuality, a story about him leaving his mother whilst she was dying and the nicknames “Professor Strange” and “The Strange Mr Jefferies”.

Had he been the victim of a murder I’m sure the press would have been quick to acknowledge that this is a gentleman who is an upstanding member of the community, a retired teacher and a Liberal Democrat party activist who runs a neighbourhood watch scheme.

Instead however they are assassinating his character, pulling up people who knew him only as children and describing his behaviour in the classroom.

Now I’m sorry but I think I could pull up a story about every one of my teachers behaving peculiarly, because children tend to have imaginations and what we thought we saw as children could be very different or exaggerated to what we would see as adults.

Why are the press doing this?

In England and Wales the Contempt of Court law prevents reporting of anything that could sway the jury once a case is active, for a case to be active somebody needs to be charged.  As of the time this post is published, Jeffries has not been charged.

Prior to online news this wasn’t a problem, the media could call somebody every name under the sun because if they then went on to be charged by the time the case began and the jury was selected, the reports would be lining the cages of budgies nationwide.

However the Contempt of Court law never made it into the modern age and online news agencies are allowed to archive all previous reports for anybody to see.  Meaning the jury members could be swayed by reports accessible on the internet despite the fact they were written prior to a case becoming active.

The media also have another friend on their side, the law of defamation, defamation is the damaging of a person’s reputation in the eyes of the society.  This means it’s easy to defame somebody seen very highly in society but it’s very difficult to damage the reputation of a criminal.

The only problem is: this man is not a criminal, he has not been charged or convicted of a crime, the only group putting this man on trial is the media.

The coauthor of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists has written a similar blog post on this subject.

Image: mjsonline


2 Responses to “Chris Jeffries: Sacrificed by the media”

  1. Well said.

  2. I had a few teachers who seemed a bit weird, but that doesn’t make them potential murderers.

    There was a really odd bit in the Sky News reporting where they were interviewing the headmaster of the school Jeffries used to teach at. Basically the headmaster explained that Jeffries had retired some time ago and there would be no-one at the school now that knew him personally. What was the point of showing this interview? It tells us nothing.

    At the end of the day, TV news channels will show pretty much anything to fill their schedules and the press will print anything they think might sell papers.

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