Media Silence

Following the outcome of the first retrial Marcel Berlins wrote in The Guardian:

“The prosecution has announced that Siôn Jenkins is to undergo yet another trial for the murder of his foster daughter Billie-Jo. This means that he will have been tried three times. His first trial ended in a conviction, which was overturned on appeal. The second has just ended with the jury unable to reach even a majority verdict of 10 to two. Both trials, as well as Jenkins’s successful appeal, attracted a great deal of publicity. I wonder whether his next trial can be pure, in the sense of a jury coming to it without any ideas based on what they’ve read or seen over the past few years. There is a particular difficulty when much of the crucial evidence depends on scientific experts who don’t agree among themselves.”

It was clear that the third trial would be a significant event. If not unprecedented, it was certainly unusual. There were legitimate questions to be asked:

  • What would be the basis of a new prosecution case?
  • What fresh evidence would be heard?
  • Who might the witnesses be this time?

Underlying the whole process was an implicit question: could Siôn Jenkins really have a fair trial in view of all the publicity surrounding the case, much of it very recent?

In the event, Siôn Jenkins’ third trial for murder was barely reported. It was reasonable to hope that somewhere in the media there would be a coherent account of the progress of such an important trial.

  • The case had a very high profile.
  • Huge public expense continued to be involved.
  • Justice itself was under scrutiny.

At the Old Bailey the media were conspicuous by their absence. Day after day the press box was almost empty. The only items which occasionally received attention were, depressingly, the most sensational details alleged by the prosecution.They were reported as edited highlights, without much context. The defence case was given minimal coverage.

At a time when people needed responsible and informative reporting there was, mostly, silence. Crucial matters of public concern were at stake, but the media, it seemed, were bored — or indifferent. Only the end of the story would be told in any detail.