Madeleine McCann: RIPA and the public death of Brenda Leyland
Madeleine McCann: a look at reporting on the missing child in the news.
The Times reports on the inquest into the death of Brenda Leyland, 63, the woman accused of being obsessed with the McCanns, posting thousands of tweets about the missing child’s parents. In one, she called them the “worst of humankind”. Other tweets might be libellous.
You might not have noticed Leyland had it not been for Sky News’ decision to doorstep her on the telly. Sky said Leyland had “trolled” the parents of Madeleine McCann. But what did Sky do? Was it any better? Worse?
While @sleepface (Leyland’s twitter handle) tweeted to a handful of of followers, Sky brodcast to the masses.
And if we get to see her squirm, why do we not also get to see the journalists and editors who libelled the McCanns and Robert Murat on the rack?
How many of the people who absued the McCanns and Murat in the mainstream media can you name? Were any of them doorstepped?
And it makes us wonder if Brenda Leyland a useful fool, a soft target to make the media look tough on so-called trolls people who says nasty things?
It’s not as if the media is hot on all trolls. The police and the maisntream media only protect the trolls who stray off-message. Did you nark to the police on the trolls who wanted ‘racist tram lady’ Emma West raped and murdered, her child left motherless? What about the tweeters who wanted Jose Cunningham, a kind of tabloid Aunt Sally, killed and her children placed in State care?
It’s clear that after being exposed, Brenda Leyland was fair game for so-called trolls who monstered her. She became international news. She became the pivot for a debate on free speech. And very soon she was dead. She was buried in the Press and in the ground.
Brenda Leyland was monstered on twitter and billed as a “twisted, fecked up bitch” by a Mirror columnist. We yet to read a description so strong for any woman joining ISIS. Leyland really was that bad.
The question we asked ran: was Brenda Leyland driven to her death by the mob?
And who tipped Sky News off? Who told the police about this woman with her fixation?
The coroner wants to know.
A coroner has demanded that a Sky News reporter divulge his source for a story about a woman who was found dead after the broadcaster revealed that she had “trolled” the parents of Madeleine McCann.
The demand has raised fresh concerns about the state encroaching on journalists’ rights to keep their sources confidential, in the wake of revelations that police forces looked into their phone records on hundreds of occasions.
Martin Brunt, who doorstepped Leyland should, of course, not reveal who tipped him off.
Martin Brunt, Sky’s crime correspondent, is due to give evidence next month at the inquest of Brenda Leyland, 63, whose body was found in October.
Mrs Leyland, of Burton Overy, Leicestershire, had been confronted days earlier as part of Mr Brunt’s exposé of a vitriolic online campaign against Kate and Gerry McCann. Their daughter, Madeleine, was three years old when she vanished from their holiday apartment in Portugal in 2007…
Leicestershire police wrote to Sky on behalf of the coroner, Catherine Mason, asking a series of questions including the identity of the person who was behind the dossier of tweets. Sky has said that it will protect its source, arguing that its rights are protected under European law. It is understood that neither the police nor the coroner have responded since.
Mr Brunt and Jonathan Levy, director of news gathering and operations at Sky News, are expected to be called to give evidence as witnesses on March 20.
They will, of course, not reveal their sources. They must not. The problem is that just as the barriers between public and private discourse have changed, so too has the law.
The demand comes after the government promised to change legislation so that police must gain a judge’s agreement before they can snoop on journalists. It took action after it emerged that phone or email data was accessed to uncover confidential sources on 600 occasions.
Police admitted using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to obtain email and phone communications between 82 journalists and 242 sources across 34 investigations in the past three years.
RIPA is the law of the totalitarian police state. RIPA is the law that makes all of us suspects. If you hated hacking, you should hate RIPA.
The Press Gazette reports:
Some 82 journalists have had their communications data obtained by police under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act in three years, the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office has found.
It’s an outrage. It’s phone hacking. And it’s legal…