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Tuesday, November 28, 2006 

Scum-watch: Forgiveness? What's that?

For all its disgust and anger at crime, one of the contradictions at the heart of the Sun is just how much it depends on the misery of others, especially those who have experienced tragedies, to sell newspapers. Naturally, all media organisations can be accused of this, and to an extent, they're giving the public what they want.

The Sun though has often taken this to extremes not normally seen in the institutionally uninhibited British press. Hillsborough is a case in point. While other newspapers made similar allegations to the Sun, none did so in the hysterical manner which infected that day's front page. They also quickly retracted the claims when it became clear that they were not true. It took Kelvin MacKenzie until 1993 to personally apologise, when in front of a parliamentary committee. The Sun itself didn't issue an unreserved apology until 2004 - and only then because Wayne Rooney had made the mistake of taking Murdoch's money for his non-existent life story.

More recently, the Sun's sensationalist accounts of serious crimes has again came under scrutiny. Reporting the case of Rochelle Holness, who was murdered by John McGrady, it alleged that McGrady had strapped Rochelle to a table and dismembered her with an electric saw while she was still alive. Holness had in fact been dead for 15 hours before she was dismembered, as a post-mortem established (the story was published before one had even been carried out) and there were no blood stains on the ceiling or walls of McGrady's flat. Their story was not only wrong and deeply hurtful, causing more pain to Holness's family, but the newspaper has so far failed to clarify the story. The article remains, uncorrected, on the Scum's website. Holness's family have apparently complained to the supine and servile Press Complaints Commission, but the case appears yet to be adjudicated. Another similarly disgusting report made the front page a couple of weeks ago, not to mention this summer's fiasco involving the "House of Horrors" which turned out to be nothing of the sort.

It's with all this in mind that we should approach today's Sun leader on the sentencing of the two teenagers found guilty of murdering Tom ap Rhys Pryce, the young lawyer who died only metres away from his house in west London.


Tom’s brave mum and dad are devout Christians.

After the murder, they somehow found it in their hearts to say they felt sorry for his killers who started off as decent kids but took a terribly wrong turn.

Their forgiveness is as awesome as it is humbling. But that must not stop the judge doing his job.

He must sentence the killers to life, with the longest possible minimum term before they can be released.

The public must know these thugs will never have another chance to treat life with such callous contempt.

In other words, they should be thrown away and forgotten about. If the Sun had its way, they would most likely spend the rest of their lives in prison. It's a sharp contrast even with the statement of ap Rhys Pryce's girlfriend, Adele Eastman, which is completely heartbreaking:
I very much doubt that as children, any of the hopes and aspirations they held for their future included killing a man, and yet here they stand convicted of that heinous crime. What happened along the way for them to become so cruel and hateful towards others, and at such a young age? What a huge waste of life - not just of Tom's but also of their own - years in prison for an Oyster card and a mobile telephone. How, on any level, could it have been worth it for them?

There are no more tomorrows here for me and Tom, and all of our hopes and dreams have been brutally torn away. I just hope that there is something better for us on the other side. In the meantime, just as hate and bitterness had no place in Tom's life, neither will they in his memory. I am determined to ensure, along with many others, that as much good as possible comes out of this horrific tragedy, so that I can say to Tom when I see him again, as I believe I will, "That was the most agonising experience of my life, but everything that you worked so hard to achieve, and everything of you that you left behind was cherished and built upon to touch the lives of others in the way you would have wanted - and it was all done out of our great love for you."

Fine words, but also followed up by fine actions, for Ms Eastman, ap Rhys Pryce's parents and Linklater's, Pryce's employers, have set up a memorial trust dedicated to helping disadvantaged children.

The judge, rather than giving in to the whims of the persecutors in chief at the top of the Sun, gave an appropriate sentence in the circumstances. Both men have been sentenced to life in prison, with Brown ordered to serve at least 17 years, with Carty serve 21. Whether either will even be released then is anybody's guess. While neither of the men appear to have shown any true remorse, they now have almost the same length of time as they've already been alive to dwell on their crimes. In line with the families' belief in forgiveness, they will most likely at some point be given another chance to prove their worth to society. A harsher sentence, as demanded by the Sun, would have meant that neither would have had to face up to their crime in order to be released. Instead, it would have left them with little hope of ever being set free, and so with no reason to bother to change their ways. While the Sun cannot forgive, the humanity of those who actually experience crime instead of just profiting from it shows through.

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