‘Trial by media’ is a term discussed time and time again by politicians, criminologists and journalists in serious crime cases when looking at the impact of the media when dealing with potential suspects.
In light of the recent press coverage over the April Jones’s case and the potential suspect, Mark Bridger, we asked a sample of 2,000 nationally representative UK adults (18+) their views on the role of the media when looking at potential suspects before they have been formally charged.
Forty-four per cent of Brits say that publicising images and/or stories is bad when ‘trial by media’ affects the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and therefore affects their right to a fair trial.
A quarter (24%) of Brits believe the public should have the right to know about the potential suspects in serious crime cases e.g. murder, abduction, before they are formally charged. Inhabitants in the West Midlands agree to this the most (33%) compared to other UK regions, for example the North East where only 11% agree.
However, our research also reveals nearly a quarter (23%) think mass media coverage amongst potential suspects is unfair as it is an invasion of an individual’s right to privacy. This belief is higher amongst males (28%) than females (19%).
Opinium research also found that half of Brits (49%) agree that even after a trial, where the potential suspect is found innocent, there could still be potential public abuse after the trail due to the amount of previous negative media coverage.
Kate Watson, Researcher at Opinium, commented: ‘’The concept of ‘trial by media’ is a serious issue which has brought much debate for a long time amongst criminologists, sociologists and the public.
Although a quarter of Brits believe the public should have the right to know about the potential suspects, this can also have disastrous consequences for a potential suspect who has been found to be innocent. ‘’
Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 2,012 UK adults aged 18+ from 5th to 8th October 2012. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.