Previously, I have written about various oddities in the case which saw Craig Murray imprisoned for contempt of court. One such quirk is the very concept of ‘jigsaw identification‘. This ‘offence’ occurs when details are published which when combined with other details already in the public domain can lead to the identification of a person or persons who have been granted the privilege of anonymity by a court of law. This is getting quirky already. The individual charged is being prosecuted not for identifying the person afforded the protection of the court. They are being prosecuted for publishing details which when combined in a particular way with other information might make it possible for someone sufficiently interested and determined to identify the person being protected.
The details published don’t have to identify anybody and nobody need actually be identified for an offence to have been committed. There is no necessary victim. Quirky?
Here’s where it gets really quirky. The details which form any of the parts of the jigsaw identification need not be themselves identified. The accused need not be told which part of what they’ve published constitutes grounds for prosecution. We are all expected to take it on trust that such details exist. The other parts of the jigsaw of which the offending (but unidentified) is a part don’t have to be identified either. So who’s to say whether they were published by the same individual? The other bits of the jigsaw puzzle need only be in the public domain. Again, we have to take it on thrust that these pieces exist and are capable of forming part of a jigsaw identification Now that’s quirky!
In that other article I make the point that supposing there are four pieces to the jigsaw puzzle publish in four different places by three different people, not all of them are liable to be prosecuted. One of the three can be selected for prosecution for contributing to a jigsaw identification even while other contributors aren’t even reprimanded.
As Craig Murray is the first person in the world to fall foul of such a quirky law, we have nothing to compare it with. But as I note in that other article,
How then can it be considered just or fair that the author of one piece is prosecuted but not the author of the other piece(s)? If one has offended then the other must also have done so. On the basis of what criteria is only one targeted by the justice system?
It would seem that only two things distinguish Craig Murray from any or all of the other pieces in this jigsaw identification. One is that he works in the new online media rather than the traditional media. The other is that his reporting of the trial of Alex Salmond sought to compensate for woeful under-reporting of the defence case in the traditional media.
The precedent set by the Craig Murray case is that the individual to be prosecuted is the one who does not work in the traditional media and perhaps that the case about which they were writing attracted a certain level of public attention. Someone working in the tradition media having published another part of the same jigsaw identification would not be liable for prosecution – or would be less likely to be prosecuted – because they are governed by a code of conduct and subject to voluntary regulation. It doesn’t seem to matter that the individual(s) in question breached the code of conduct or that no action was taken by the regulator, the apparent exemption apparently derives from the existence of the code and the regulation and not any implementation or enforcement. We’re now beyond mere quirky and about to enter the realm of magic.
This is where the charm enters the story; in the form of the Dorrian Decree. So called for the Opinion delivered by senior judge Lady Dorrian. Specifically, this bit.
The applicant describes himself as a “journalist in new media”. Whatever that may involve, it is relevant to distinguish his position from that of the mainstream press, which is regulated, and subject to codes of practice and ethics in a way in which those writing as the applicant does are not. To the extent that the submissions for the applicant make comparisons with other press contempts, and the role of mainstream journalists, this is a factor which should be recognised”.
This neatly resolves the problem of who shall be liable to be pursued for alleged contempt of court and who is to be given a free pass. Or at least left to the uncommonly tender mercies of the regulator. The Dorrian Decree makes a clear distinction between journalists working in “mainstream press” (presumably meaning traditional and mainstream media in general) and those working “new media”, or bloggers. The latter only are to be dealt with by the courts. The former need be subject to no sanction even if they have committed an offence in all respects identical to that attributed to the blogger. We are now all quirk and no justice.
I acknowledge that the foregoing is based on my own interpretation of the matter having read the relevant material extensively and thoroughly. I may be mistaken of the odd point. Others may interpret things differently. But I’d have to have got the wrong end of something that isn’t even a real stick to be entirely wrong about the whole business. And if I am even half right it is some very smelly business indeed.
One thing I’m sure of is that those who instigated the selective prosecution of Craig Murray hoped that his imprisonment would discourage the bloggers they regard as a threat to established power. Or merely a nuisance. They would like the whole matter to now fall off everybody’s radar. The very last thing the want is bloggers and their audiences defying the deterrence and keeping the issues raised by Craig Murray’s imprisonment in the public eye. So that is what I’ll be doing. I’ll be writing about and referring to this as long as the questions raised remain unanswered. And as long as doing so might embarrass or irritate the culprits even the tiniest bit.
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