Monday, 31 October 2011

2 pressing questions arising from this week's news.

The first question arises from the Vincent Tabak trial. Why was the police evidence about his internet porn activity, and his interest in escort agencies not revealed to the jury?
Steven Morris writing in the Guardian says:  "Computer analysts found the Dutch engineer appeared to have a fascination with pornography depicting violence towards women. In some of the films he viewed, men held women by the neck while they had sex.
Detectives found that while away on business Tabak contacted escorts and prostitutes, and during a trip to California may have paid for sex.
Prosecutors in the case believe Tabak's fixation on hardcore pornography helps to make the case that this was a sex crime. They feel that his research on and suspected use of prostitutes shows that his respectable outward life was a lie.
After his arrest in January, analysts delved deep into four computers Tabak had access to and found disturbing material. Police discovered images and films showing women bound, gagged, degraded and controlled by men. They also found a film in which two women were bundled into a car boot".
The answer to the question is: "Mr Justice Field, the trial judge, accepted that the viewing of pornography showing violence or a threat of violence was "reprehensible". But he did not allow the jury to hear the evidence because he felt its value in explaining why Tabak acted as he did could not outweigh the prejudice it would cause his defence.
He also turned down the prosecution's suggestion that the evidence about escort agencies should go before the jury to correct the impression Tabak gave of being sexually naive and in a loving, monogamous relationship. The jury was left ignorant of what the police believed was important evidence."
Well, you have to hand it to the judge for being even handed and scrupulous about the fairness of the trial. In my view, he overcompensated for his own reaction to the evidence. If the jury had not reached the conclusion they did, I think there would have been a public outcry when the evidence came to light.
The second question I have is why did the St Paul's protest have to become such a drama? The situation has now escalated into a potential stand off between officers for London Council and the protesters, which may well result in   violence, which St Paul's will find embarrassing, but will be hoping to blame on the protesters. (In the event of violence it will be hoped that protesters will have provided a violent response to any attempt to evict them, so that all can say, "They started it.") It seems to me that if the St Paul's staff had simply and politely had a planning meeting with the protesters, they could have organised walk ways through the midst of their makeshift camp, protected even by temporary waist level fences, the kind which are used all the time to fence off road works and help direct the flow of pedestrian traffic. They could then have begun a cafe service to the protesters - even charging for a bun and a cuppa and thus taking commercial advantage of a protest against capitalism (that would have been I think a nice and very successful irony). Instead someone in the hierarchy of St Paul's jumped to the hasty conclusion that it was an "either or" situation, and the rest is history. Shame.  

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