Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Innocence And The Media

Imagine being accused of a crime you didn't commit. How would you feel? How would you react to the reaction of family, friends, colleagues and total strangers? This month's post is about the negative role of the media on those accused of a crime.

On December 9, Richard Dyde, 47, of 57 men charged with child pornography, jumped off a bridge and died. It was just one day after he had made bail on December 8. Dyde, a researcher at York University, had expressed to his lawyer a desire to fight the charges. According to Jim Rankin, writing in the Toronto Star, December 17, facing the media after his bail hearing seemed like the tipping and lead to his suicide.

Rankin reports that Arthur Lurigio, co-author of "New Defendants, New Responsibilities: Preventing Suicide Among Alleged Sex Offenders In The Federal Pretrial System", says that "...the public "outing" by police and the media of those accused of child pornography crimes increases the suicide risk...."

It raises the question of the responsibility of the media, as well as the police, in being very careful in what information is disclosed to the public about the accused and remembering that the person or persons are only accused, they HAVE NOT yet been found guilty.

I DO NOT condone the sexual exploitation of children or abuse of children. I'm positively disguested and greatly angered by this. And I strongly suspect that both Rankin and Lurigio feel the same. However the media, as well as everyone else, needs to remember that we, in Canada, have the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Sometimes it seems as if it's guilty until proven innocent.

Getting back to Richard Dyde, maybe he was innocent or maybe he was guilty. We'll probably never know. While it is the duty of the media to report on those accused of a crime, it is not the media's to pass judgement on them as so often seems the case. It is also the media's duty to be as respectful and as balanced as is reasonably possible, which may mean withholding some information from the public until the person has been convicted.

We need to remember that there have been some high profile cases of people convicted of crimes against children, of sexually assualting another adult and of murdering another adult, who have subsequently been found innocent through new evidence.

By the way, sorry for missing the December post. My girlfriend, who lives in another city, was visiting me and I forgot.