Tuesday 1 June 2010

Lies from behind bars

On 18 April, the News of the World published the type of article that has become a staple of the red-tops - a piece of gossip about an infamous prisoner which is based solely on the word of an anonymous source.

Who could forget the Sun's homophobic, fictional article about Boy George eyeing up Jack Tweed in the prison showers?

And the latest example is on the front of today's Sun, which was nothing more than what a 'prison insider' had claimed about Stephen Griffiths.

The News of the World's Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe fuming after parole bid knocked back explained:

Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe will NOT walk free after a judge ruled out evidence from his Broadmoor psychiatrist, we can reveal.

The serial killer is fuming after his lawyers broke the news at a crunch meeting this week.

Sutcliffe, 63, had pinned his hopes of winning his High Court bid for parole after 30 years behind bars on a report by Dr Kevin Murray saying he posed a "low" risk of re-offending.

A source told us: "Peter was shown a list of people for whom life means life, including Ian Brady, to spell out that he's in the same boat. He's moaning that he's been stitched up."

Sadly a few days ago, it rather fell apart, when the paper had to publish this:

In an April 18 article, we wrongly reported that Peter Sutcliffe learned at a legal meeting that a bid for parole had been denied after a judge ruled out a report from his Broadmoor psychiatrist.

We now accept that our report, published in good faith, was inaccurate.

Peter Sutcliffe has not applied for parole, nor did any such meeting or judicial ruling of any sort take place. We are happy to set the record straight and regret the inaccuracies.

Three things: first, no mention in the clarification of Sutcliffe 'moaning' and 'fuming'.

Second, the typical expression of regret, but the complete inability to apologise. They 'regret' telling lies, but aren't sorry for misleading their readers.

Third, that phrase 'published in good faith' is also typical because, once again, it shows a newspaper can't just say 'yes, we got it wrong, we're sorry'.

They (very probably) paid for the tip and published it without (apparently) doing much fact-checking.

But by saying they published the story in 'good faith', they're saying: it's not really our fault.


  1. Ignoring for the moment the fact that the "story" from the anonymous "prison insider" sends the TotalBollocks-o-meter dials straight into red, it's moving perilously close to contempt of court, given that the second of the murders with which Mr. Griffiths has been charged may have taken place almost exactly a month before his arrest for the killing of Susan Blamires.

    Shelley Armitage was last seen alive on 26th April; Stephen Griffiths was charged on 27th May. To present a story in which he had a "vision" of being remanded to Wakefield nick less than a month before his arrest might just be designed to plant a certain idea in the reader's mind.

    Incidentally, over 90% of stories of which I have personal knowledge that emanated from a "prison insider" turned out to be either utter fantasy or gross exaggeration.

  2. A good analysis. It's much like the bank that refunds an extortionate overdraft fee "in good faith" - We'll retract it, but are too belligerent to admit the dubious justification of the charge and apologise. Pathetic.

  3. A newspaper that publishes 'in good faith' is not a newspaper. A newspaper that checks the accuracy and credibility of its sources hardly needs any good faith at all, does it?


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