Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Daily Mail, the Deputy Head and a small matter of truth.


On its website today, the Daily Mail headlines the heart-warming triumph of a deputy head who was cleared of false charges of sexual relations with a 'deeply disturbed' teenager:

Deputy head teacher cleared of having 14-month affair with 'fantasist' special needs pupil

The report goes on to detail the trauma of the teacher's two-week trial as she sought to clear her name amidst significant publicity. What, of course, the Mail doesn't tell us - perhaps for reasons of space - is that her innocence was by no means assumed by all observers. One story that appeared during the trial was headlined:

Deputy Headmistress at Special School 'had sex with hyper-active pupil, 16, in disabled toilets of British Library'.

That particular story continued in the same vein for several paragraphs, detailing the accusations against the accused deputy as if they were in fact true. It begins:

A married woman teacher had secret sex sessions with her 16-year-old special needs pupil at the British Library and a luxury hotel, a court heard yesterday.

The story documents all of the lurid claims, and even publishes a box containing the alleged texts of her messages to her 'lover'. The casual reader (and are there any other kinds of Mail reader?) would be forgiven for thinking that this was a cut and dried case. How fortunate that, unlike the newspaper, the jury were able to think more rationally about all of the evidence, thus giving the verdict of complete acquittal reported by today's Mail. And the source of the original story? Er....the Daily Mail of course! Continuing to do its bit in the interests of lies and injustice - until a court rules otherwise of course!

As a postscript, the original story was by-lined with the name of reporter Liz Hull. Today's story about the Deputy being cleared contained only the 'Daily Mail Reporter' byline. Couldn't be embarrassing for Ms. Hull to be associated with a true story could it?

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