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Connecting justice

The worrying similarities in developments in the cases of Oscar Pistorious and Rebekah Brooks could be very bad for justice


Two cases. Two countries. Two worrying trends. The cases against Oscar Pistorious and Rebekah Brooks might at first glance appear to have little in common but in reality they’re developing a lot of similarities.


Paralympian Pistorious appeared before magistrates today accused of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, at his home on Valentine’s Day this year. The magistrate warned that he should not face “trial by media” and criticised the “scandalous and possibly contemptuous” reporting by some media following the publication of pictures by the Rupert Murdoch owned Sky News last week that purport to show the blood-spattered bathroom where the Olympian is said to have shot his lover.


Oscar Pistorious in court on Tuesday 4th June 2013
The blood spattered bathroom as shown on SKY News

Separately, the former chief police investigator on the case, Hilton Botha, who was removed after it was revealed that he was himself facing separate attempted murder charges, commented that the pictures were not official police pictures and suggested they were taken with a mobile phone. In an interview with the Sunday People, the former detective stated:


“It looks like the pictures have been taken one or two days after the scene because on the Saturday (a day after the fatal shooting) I took it down and sent it away for forensics”.


“This is why I took the door down. I knew that anyone could come in and take pictures and both our cases could be buggered. I also wanted to make sure if there were fingerprints on the inside of the door – maybe Reeva was trying to keep it closed”.


“I’d heard there was money being offered for pictures of the door and that’s why I took it down. Someone made money out of this but hopefully they will be caught”.


Mr Botha is plainly a discredited man but what he says is worrying. The prosecution of Pistorious, whose case was postponed until 19th August on the request of the prosecution today, could collapse because of the photographic evidence that was leaked to the public prior to defence lawyers seeing them.


Rebekah Brooks at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival

The case against Rebekah Brooks, a former employee of Rupert Murdoch’s News International corporation, equally could potentially be prejudiced if a story spreading like wildfire through Twitter and the blogging community presently is proved to have any substance.


If certain information is revealed, Mrs Brooks, whose lawyer is the Prime Minister’s brother Alex Cameron and whose connections to the political glitterati is well known, could claim that this be prejudicial to her trial. It could indeed scupper the whole case.


We at The Steeple Times have clearly suggested in the past that we think that too much of the blame for the whole phone hacking scandal has been placed on the shoulders of Mrs Brooks, but this could truly tip the balance in the other direction.


For those of us in media circles, these two cases are like the gifts that keep on giving. Barely a day goes by without juicy gossip and innuendo being shared and the public, like dogs chewing on a bone, lap it up. Sadly, for society as a whole though, if the turns and technicalities destroy either or both of these cases, it will set the most terrible of precedents.



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