Monday, 4 July 2011

Appearances are deceptive

"There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face" Duncan states as he speaks of the traitorous Cawdor in Macbeth. Clothes, equally, often hide the true character of an individual - as was found to my peril with a certain “Chanel-clad” and not so charitable one.

Most will probably have forgotten a schoolmaster named Chris Jefferies, a man wrongly accused last December of the cruel murder of Joanna Yeates in Bristol. Recalling the case, most, though, will remember his portrayal by the media as an odd-bod with blue hair.

Chris Jefferies in his days as a school-master at Clifton College

“The strange Mr Jefferies” was the headline run by The Sun after Jefferies’ arrest on suspicion of the murder. Jefferies, who lived in the same building as Yeates and owned the flat she rented, was described by The Telegraph as an “eccentric English teacher with dyed blue hair, a passion for Romantic poetry and a love of theatre and avant-garde films.” Other papers highlighted his notoriously bad temper, his “flamboyant” looks and that colleagues speculated that he “might be a homosexual” “peeping Tom.”

Following the arrest of Vincent Tabak, another tenant of the very same building both Jefferies and Yeates occupied, the character assassination of the “weird” man came to an end but what became of the individual who was wrongly accused simply because people thought him “strange?”

 Chris Jefferies during the initial stages of the investigation into the murder of Joanna Yeates

Jefferies, whose life was turned upside down, put his flat for sale for £245,000 after being released from bail without charge. He was said to have expressed his "immense relief" that his ordeal was over. Forever more, though proven completely innocent, he'll be linked to this appalling case. He may well be a little bizarre but that surely is not justification for the mean way in which his persona was destroyed.

On Tuesday, The Mirror and The Sun go on trial for prejudicing a trial that never happened, the trial of a man “you didn’t want to come near you.” These papers stand accused under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 at the Royal Courts of Justice over the publication of articles that would have prejudiced any trial of Chris Jefferies. Further writs for libel have been issued against the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Star and Daily Record.

The solicitor for Jefferies, Louis Charalambous, is demanding that the editors of The Sun and The Mirror resign if their newspapers are found guilty. Somehow these resignations, even if the case is proven, will be highly unlikely to occur.

Strangely, though, after being happy to destroy the life of the “odd-bod," not many newspapers have made even a small reference to this trial. Shame on them.


Daz Pearce said...

Nicely done Matt - had Jefferies been charged, what chance would he have had in front of a jury? I would suggest no chance at all...

jdc325 said...

I agree that it's a shame that the contempt of court trial hasn't been more widely reported. I've found online reports in the Guardian, Independent, Mail, FT, and a brief piece in the Mirror itself. Nothing in the Sun, Star, Express, Telegraph, or Times that I can see.

Dave said...

When will the media learn (i.e. never) that it is not their place to prejudice legal proceedings by pointing their finger because they look wierd.,,