Monday, August 3, 2009

How can a bloke's public reputation can be destroyed by someone whose reputation is protected?

Posted by Lawrence Money in theage.com.au

It has happened twice now in a month. Two blokes have been dragged through court, had their reputation torn to shreds, made to look like absolute scumbags by evidence from someone who hid behind the skirts of the law.

First came 60-year-old Gavan Disney (above), who had to trudge in to court day after day, suffer daily photo shoots by TV and press, see lewd sex claims aired in the media, endure the smirks and snickering out there in audience land, all on the say-so of a bloke who no one could publicly name. And whose claims dated back 20 years or more.

In the end, Disney was cleared. He was innocent in the eyes of the law but muddied, perhaps beyond repair, by the unsubstantiated claims.

Then came Theo Theophanous. Same deal. Into court every day, devoted wife by his side, accused all sorts of grubby behaviour by a woman who could not be named. From behind the screen of law-enforced anonymity this ghostly malefactor chucked all sorts of dirt.

If you had printed it in a paper outside a court case, Theophanous (above) would have picked up enough defamation money to start his own poltiical party. And again: he was cleared. Innocent in the eyes of the law but fatally soiled by allegations which, in many cases, were laughably far-fetched.

You wonder how this can be called justice, don't you? It's the reverse of the legal process that prevents prior convictions being aired before a jury makes its decision. That's to avoid juries being swayed in their decision by something other than the evidence in a particular case.

It's to avoid sullying the character of the accused in the eyes of the jurors. You wonder, then, how a bloke's public reputation can be destroyed by someone whose reputation is protected, whether the claims are proved true or not. Yes, sex victims have enough damage done and their identity should be shielded -- but what about the reputation of ''offenders'' who are wrongfully accused? Don't they have a right to protection too?

Suppress the identity of both. Name the accused only if found guilty. Sound fair?

Link: http://blogs.theage.com.au/moderntimes/archives/2009/07/attacked_by_a_ghost.html