How the right-wing press lost interest in Gabrielle Browne

Ben Chu

gabrielle browne 150x150 How the right wing press lost interest in Gabrielle BrowneIt 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?


The Telegraph reported the meeting, but neglected to mention her change of views. Likewise the Mail. The Sun seems to have ignored it all together.

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.

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  • tumper

    Yes the media are very selective in what they want people to see and hear. Which brings me to the curious news blackout on the events in Libya. The UK is at war with Libya, and yet there is nothing televised. There is even less in the printed press.  Why weren’t the BBC and SkyNews covering the protests in Bahrain for example?
     What is going on here??

  • Jon

    Welcome to the world of selective media outrage. You’re almost right, by the way: newspapers treat these stories in the way you describe because that is how they will make money — their readers like it that way. Confirmation bias, and all that.

  • Nicole Hunt

    So the Independent wasn’t part of the ‘manufactured row’? Sure, I remember a logical op-ed somewhat defending Clarke, buried somewhere in the paper (or was it just online?) and Ben Chu’s linked to his own blog post from the time. But in terms of what they used to sell papers that morning? A black background with a black and white photo of Clarke’s face and the words ‘Rape is rape’ ‘No it’s not’.

    I agree with the rest of the post, though. The red tops are especially bad for not bothering to follow up with the truth when it’s so much more boring than the first sensational thing they printed.

  • RuariJM

    “Why weren’t the BBC and SkyNews covering the protests in Bahrain for example?”

    Because foreign media are banned and there is a total clampdown on broadcasting?

    Not much of an excuse, given that the media has been able to get mobile phone footage, I agree – but there you are.

  • Brenda Petrie

    sorry, er, missed the explanation of why this is a “right wing” group trying to get Mr Clarke out. Using terms like “right wing” and “left wing” is not the only way the media can get the public’s attention

    Which papers are doing the manufacturing of stories here?

    This is typical, we expect, though rarely get, anything reported in a factual and impartial way. We just get alarmist headlines  – Reporters should grow up.

    I suspect that there were as many people for or against this (and many more policy changes) from every point in the political spectrum.

    The parties have core values, but very few issues fall neatly into one camp or the other and should not be treated as party politics!

  • Will Millinship

    Ooh, you cynic! 

    Reminds me of a time when Bill O’Reilly interviewed the son of a 9/11 victim, only to promptly cut him off when his views didn’t match his own:

  • David Murphy

    You ignore the vituperative feminists too who also wanted his head.

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