Thursday, May 07, 2009

We've had a couple of interesting debates about Colin Pitchfork recently - Pitchfork is currently in jail for the rape and murder of two 15-year-olds in Leicester in the 1980s, but is appealing against the length of his sentence, a fact that has stirred up understandable emotions amongst family and friends of his victims.

You can find our stories about the case here on thisisleicestershire and you'll see that a lot of local people have commented on the articles. Under our article headlined 'Families anger at Pitchfork secrets' one of our readers, Kulgan, commented that he thought the Mercury was wrong to allow any comment on the case as it is sub judice. While he is technically correct, the issue is really whether or not our allowing comment was likely to pervert the course of justice and it is generally accepted in law that judges in the higher courts are not going to be influenced by public discussion or newspaper articles and, therefore, there is no danger of Pitchfork not getting a fair hearing.

Which brings me on to today's article, 'Number 10 bans Pitchfork petition.' In this we learn that a petition on the Number 10 website calling for Pitchfork to be kept in prison has been removed because Downing Street officials say that it is not appropriate.

So, the law tells us that the judges cannot be influenced by public opinion and No 10 says that they don't want to know about this case. While it is obviously right that the Government cannot intervene in individual court cases, it doesn't seem right that they won't accept a petition which might help inform them as to public opinion on the argument of the rights of victims vs the rights of perpetrators. The judges - who will not be swayed by public opinion - do, however, enforce the laws as set out by the politicians and it doesn't seem right that No 10 doesn't want to know that thousands of people are not happy that the laws they have passed may well allow Pitchfork to walk free before the end of his sentence.

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