Most of Australia has heard about the death of Allison Baden-Clay. She went missing on 20 April in Brookfield, on Brisbane’s outer west. I was overseas so missed the initial hype, but her body was found about two weeks later at Kholo Creek in Brisbane on April 30, and even in my state of severe jet lag, my brain was working enough to immediately sit up and pay attention. Why? Because with just a few news reports and articles, I knew that we were in the beginning of a trial by media. Lo and behold, Gerard Baden-Clay, her husband, has now been charged with her murder, and interfering with a corpse.
Various social media and other website commenters have not disappointed me in their attitudes. Comments like: “I knew it was him“, “It’s always the husband!”, “He had an affair and just killed her so that he didn’t have to go through the financial mess of a divorce” have been popping up all the place. It is absolutely outrageous.
Australia operates a common law legal system. A fundamental aspect is Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat - the presumption of innocence. The presumption of innocence is a FUNDAMENTAL aspect of our legal system. In other words, people who are charged with crimes, are innocent, until proven guilty. It is up to the DPP to prove beyond a reasonable doubt (and that legal hurdle is onerous) that Gerard Baden-Clay is guilty of murder.
What people commenting on this case seem to forget is that simply because the police have enough evidence to charge someone, does NOT mean that the DPP have proved beyond a reasonable doubt, that he is guilty. People would do well to remember this before spouting their mouths off with comments like: “It’s always the husband, I KNEW it was him“.
Let’s look at some of the facts that have been reported in the media:
- Gerard Baden-Clay did not report his wife missing until around 7-7:30am after she left the house at 10:00pm the night before;
- Gerard Baden-Clay was having an affair and it was known in wider social circles;
- Gerard Baden-Clay had financial trouble in his real estate business; and
- Gerard Baden-Clay refused to speak to the media apart from one or two brief statements.
Having an affair and business troubles is not indicative of being a murderer. Businesses fail. Financial stress happens. Affairs happen. All. The. Freaking. Time.
That does not mean that anyone, media or otherwise has a right to assume those facts are so deeply suspicious it must mean that Gerard Baden-Clay killed his wife. However, by consistently planting these facts in the minds of the newsreaders, the media encourages attitudes such as “Why would he not have reported her missing if she went out at 10 at night?” Oh, I don’t know, maybe he is a heavy snorer and as a result they had separate bedrooms therefore he wouldn’t have heard her leave or come back? “He was having an affair, he offed her so he didn’t have to bother with a divorce” Makes sense, of course, because life in prison is SO MUCH CHEAPER AND EASIER than going through a divorce…
People reading and commenting on this case remember this: Gerard Baden-Clay is innocent until proven guilty. He is innocent until the DPP proves otherwise and he is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury.
People made presumptions about Lindy Chamberlain too. Look how well that turned out.
So what do you think? Have you been following the case? Do you think that social media and the media generally are fuelling these attitudes?
Whippersnapper has written 37 posts.