The current issue of the Press Gazette has a response by the BBC to a rival journalist’s allegation that it is in danger of prejudicing the would-be suicide bombers’s trial by continuting to use the CCTV images of the suspects, contrary to police pleas to discontinue their publication.
BBC home news editor Jon Williams writes,
Presumably Nick Pollard thinks the publisher of these pages is also mad — Press Gazette used the same pictures of Muktar Said Ibrahim, Ramzi Mohammed and Yassin Hassan-Omar to illustrate its front page story. So too did ITV News in its report of the court case. The truth, of course, is that none of us are mad — or bad.
For two weeks, the pictures of the three men, along with the fourth suspect arrested in Rome, had been on the front pages of newspapers in the UK and around the world, to say nothing of the thousands of leaflets distributed on the public transport network. For a fortnight, the CCTV images had rarely been off our TV screens, the suspects had become some of the most familiar faces in Britain. On the day they appeared in court, they were pictured on “wanted” posters in dozens of tube stations.
So when the Metropolitan Police asked the BBC and other media organisations to stop showing these images, we were faced with the likelihood of viewers of the 10 O’clock News returning home from work having seen the faces of the suspects on tube trains, in station concourses, and in the windows of hundreds of shops, but not on their television.
There was no logic to the request. Far from “defying” the Metropolitan Police, we spoke to senior officials at New Scotland Yard and to the Crown Prosecution Service before broadcasting the pictures. Neither had any “strong” objection.
Quite right. But Williams forgets to mention one other organisation that Pollard must think is “mad” for publishing the photos online — the Home Office.
If this becomes a real contempt issue rather than some shoproom jousting among hacks, perhaps Attorney General Lord Goldsmith will need to remind Charles Clarke of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.