How the right-wing press lost interest in Gabrielle Browne
It looks like Ken Clarke’s sensible proposals to increase the scope of plea bargaining within the criminal justice system have been crushed. No doubt last month’s manufactured row about the Justice Secretary’s supposedly cavalier attitude to the crime of rape strengthened the hand of those in Downing Street who wanted to kill off this policy. Ed Miliband’s boneheaded call for Clarke’s resignation probably helped too.
On that farrago about rape, the BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, on the Today programme this morning reminded us of the curious case of Gabrielle Browne (pictured).
On 18 May, Ms Browne, a rape victim who was treated appalling by the criminal justice system, appeared on BBC Five Live’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, where Clarke was being interviewed, to excoriate the Justice Secretary and his proposals.
Ms Browne was used like a battering ram by the right-wing press against the Justice Secretary the next day. The Daily Telegraph cited her case in its leading article attacking Clarke, which was headlined ”A wounded woman spoke for the nation”. It also ran a long and sympathetic interview with Ms Browne. She was cited in Matthew D’Ancona’s Sunday Telegraph column calling for Clarke to be defenestrated by the Prime Minister. The Sun and The Daily Mail used her to tear chunks out of the Justice Secretary too.
But as Robinson noted this morning, Ms Browne had a private meeting with Ken Clarke the very next week and, in a further interview on Five Live, on 25 May, she came out in favour of the Justice Secretary’s proposals to allow offenders to cut their sentences in half if they plead guilty after being charged.
She told Victoria Derbyshire:
“I accept his argument now as he’s been clearer in his definition of when the 50% reduction would apply. Let’s say in my case, my offender had been arrested and charged and pleaded guilty, I wouldn’t have gone on to suffer the trauma I suffered.”
Reducing the agony of victims was one the very things that the policy was designed to achieve.
So were the right-wing newspapers, which had taken such a close interest in Ms Browne’s views the previous week, all over this? Did they make her interesting change of mind the subject of large news reports, editorials and columns?
It’s a terrible thing to be cynical, but one could easily come away with the impression that these newspapers were only interested in Ms Browne’s opinions so long as they fitted with their own reactionary agenda on criminal justice.
Those inclined to think that scrapping Mr Clarke’s plea bargaining reform proposals is the right decision should consider whether the newspapers they rely on for information are giving them the full picture.Tagged in: daily mail, daily telegraph, Gabrielle Brown, Ken Clarke, rape, the sun
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