Richard Lutz asks whether justice is being served.
A lot of us will wake this morning confused about what has transpired in our courts in the past 24 hours.
The catalyst must be the latest announcement from the Old Bailey that not only were four more reporters cleared of bribery but that nine more prosecutions for chucking cash at police and civil servants are being dropped.
The much vaunted Operation Elveden, set up the investigate tabloid journalists over illegal payments, is all but dead in the water. Seemingly, if it is in ‘the public interest’, it is not illegal.
So what does this tumultuous decision mean? Well, it seems reporters can bribe civil servants, such as prison officers and government workers, to pass on information. But the public workers themselves can still be prosecuted for receiving the cash. It makes no sense. Surely, both the giver and taker of bribes must be charged and held accountable before a jury?
As for handing cash to the police, it still is technically a crime. But why wasn’t former Murdoch executive Rebekah Brooks (formerly Wade) never charged after she admitted a decade ago in a Parliamentary select committee that police bribes had been handed out while she was in charge of the Sun tabloid?
This tangled issue, which still must be fully aired, comes within the week that aged politician Greville Janner has been told he will not face charges for alleged historic child abuse. The 86 year old peer has been deemed too senile to face a court. The Crown Prosecution Service now admits that Janner should have been charged previously over a string of claims stretching back decades.
So, the outcome of this case is that some people can be charged for cases going back 30 or 40 years.
But some, albeit mentally fragile with age, will not have to face a judge and jury.
Surely, medical experts could prove that a suspect is too senile to face a court case – as in Janner’s case – but with the defence’s approval, the trial could go ahead without the senile accused in court. That at least would give some sense of justice to the victims who have to live with the crimes they suffered at the hands of sex attackers.
These two cases come just after the furore over Jeremy Clarkson and his tacky world. It is a minor affair, of course, about a TV personality who punched a BBC co-worker in an argument over food. But with all sides more or less admitting the colleague was hit, with no consequent police investigation, it now seems acceptable to assault a work colleague. Would that be the same if it happened in an office, on a building site or on the factory floor?
So, while the dust settles over the CPS decision to drop the bribery charges against the tabloid press, it is best to see it in the context of previous strange decisions- decisions that also include the failure to charge TV personality Jimmy Savile, the failure to charge MP Cyril Smith (both over historic child sex crimes) and the failure to go for protected men in politics who still have grubby unanswered shadows hanging over their heads going back decades.