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Press freedom?

Following  the Redknapp/Mandaric verdict, it came as more than a small surprise to me when it was revealed that Mandaric had been tried last year on similar tax evasion charges and acquitted. Why was I so taken aback? Because the UK media had been prevented from reporting the fact, and the co-defendants had been barred from talking about it. By whom? By the court; that’s an assumption because I haven’t seen it reported as fact. At whose instigation? HMRC/the Crown; also a guess, for the same reason.

So far nothing has been made of this, and that astonishes me. It may be that the media have been overwhelmed in reporting the aftermath of the trial, and have had neither the time or the editorial space to look at this aspect. If so, I hope they find some damn quick, because many of us would like to know why the fact of Mandaric’s earlier acquittal had to be maintained as a state secret. Of course I can almost hear the arguments being put in court; ‘prejudicial to a forthcoming trial’ and so forth, but I cannot see the fairness in their being accepted. I am also astonished that the UK media, in its entirety, swallowed the ban and did not find ways of breaking it.

It is an established principle of UK criminal proceedings that the previous convictions of an accused person are kept from his trial jury, in fairness to him. But surely previous acquittals constitute evidence of good character, and it is just as unfair to keep them from a jury as it would be to reveal a criminal record. I suspect that the judge in the trial just concluded may have agreed with me, for he went out of his way to tell the jury in his summing up that they were men of good character.

There are several aspects of the Redknapp/Mandaric case that warrant examination; the length of time that the investigation, the conduct of the City of London police in carrying out staged, wholly unnecessary, ‘dawn raids’ at Redknapp’s home, and the aggressive attitude throughout of HMRC culminating in the shameless statement its representative made yesterday on the courthouse steps, with its final ugly, damage-limiting threat, that sounded as it if it had come straight from Big Brother’s PR department.

The only argument that I can see against such an enquiry  would be that the two men who were injured by the fiasco want simply to walk away from it undamaged, and to have nothing more to do with the matter. If so, after all that time, they deserve that right.

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