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Laurence Inman’s Blog

SUNLIGHT – THE BEST DISINFECTANT

08-10-2009

How much are we entitled to know about the crimes punished in our courts? More than our friends in the media currently allow us reckons Laurence Inman.

What do other people really think of us ?

Will God be waiting for us when we die, with a big ledger ?

Can there be any conceivable point to Birmingham City ?

The solutions to these mysteries can never be vouchsafed to us mere humans, at least not in this life-time.

And that’s a good thing, surely ? We need secrets to make life interesting.

Think of the daily terrors we’d have to face if everyone’s thoughts were open and examinable. The world would be drenched in a kind of mental stink. Like your own hellish Peep Show.

And who wants God explaining himself to Graham Norton on the telly every night ?

As for the Blues! It was enough of a shock when I learnt they had a manager and actually trained somewhere. To be told now that there is a stated purpose to all their tomfoolery would send me shrieking to the booby hatch.

Secrets are a great idea in our private, inner lives. But in the law and politics – no.

If you’re arrested for anything, the police have to say why. You have to be cautioned. You’re allowed to contact someone. The purpose of this is often not a practical one; it is more emblematic. It means that you are not being held in secret.

Likewise, the courts must be open to anyone who just fancies walking in off the street and watching what goes on. The public galleries are usually not big enough to hold more than a dozen people, but that’s not the point. They’re big enough to avoid secrecy, (and at the same time not big enough to provide a spectator sport.)

Likewise, the press must be free to report proceedings, as long as they’re fair. I heard Harold Evans on the radio this week, repeating a great quote. ‘In public matters, sunlight is the best disinfectant.’

A big case was heard at Bristol Crown Court last week. It was the one involving Vanessa George and her two cyber-mates. They all pleaded guilty to charges involving child-pornography.

The cess-pit press responded as usual: pictures of the monsters, calls for medieval punishments, evil evil evil evil......

But what did they actually do ? Apparently we are not allowed to know. TV reporters solemnly informed us that the details were ‘too distressing to broadcast.’ How do they know ? Who decides these things ? How could these crimes have been so ghastly and yet remain undiscovered by parents of the victims and colleagues of the offenders ?

What it means is that we can be told Look, they’re guilty. That’s all you need to worry your heads about. Don’t they look like monsters ? Well then. It doesn’t matter what they actually did. All you have to do is accept what we tell you.

The mob-hysteria surrounding any crimes against children has a troublesome consequence waiting for us; anyone even suspected of an offence has less and less chance of a fair hearing. And do we want to live in a society where children suspect all adults of some malicious intent and where no one dare come into any contact with a child for fear of being thought a pervert ?

Today marks Laurence's third anniversary on The Stirrer, and his 156th article.

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