Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Trial by Jury Facebook

His dream in ruins, the hapless Jeremy Forrest was hauled into a Bordeaux court this morning, handcuffed - and complete with a coat over his head!  What was the point of that, incidentally: his photo was in every paper in the land last week, everyone knows what he looks like?  Anyway, if all goes according to plan, the extradition will be finalized on Thursday and he'll be winging his way back shortly afterwards.

Talking of things going to plan (or rather not, as the case may be) the journos have been busy digging away to find out what really went on last week.  The answer, we're told, is a staying in a seedy back-street hotel, living out of packed bags and subsisting off kebab takeaways.  Oh, and the thing that "betrayed" him - the dodgy fake CV.  Personally I'd have thought that was enough to tarnish the gilding a smidgeon on any fairytale romance, but maybe that's just me.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Megan Stammers, who was flown home on Saturday, has been staying at an "undisclosed location" being interviewed by the authorities (I do hope they're feeding her well after all those kebabs).  Presumably she'll soon have to start back at school: I mean, she's had a week-and-a-half of 'unauthorized absence from school' already or hasn't anyone else cottoned on to that yet?

There's certainly been no shortage of comment on all this.  After all, being a pupil at school is something almost everyone has had at least some personal experience of.  One that struck a particular resonance with me is this one on pupils' changing perceptions of their teachers.  Coincidentally I was just fifteen, when at my all-boys grammar school, we got our very first female teacher.  Married (well, a Mrs at least), 40-ish and by swinging sixties standards somewhat frumpish, she was in our eyes definitely not flirt material.  Her arrival to take our German O level classes nevertheless provided us 15-year old boys with something of a lively conversation topic, which soon descended into plumbing depths of hitherto uncharted vulgarity.  Certainly no-one had a crush on her, and if she had one on any of us she kept it well hidden.  Had she been on the other hand young, single and attractive (or even two out of the three) I can think of several of my ex-classmates who'd have been more than willing to test the water to see if they were in with a chance!  Taking that line of thought one stage further, I'm willing to bet that - then as now - if a 15-year old boy had run off with a 30-year old married female teacher, the level of outright condemnation and frankly rather judgemental criticism would be much more muted.

Perhaps rather tantalizingly if cryptically, Jeremy's lawyer has indicated that we can "look forward to the full story emerging".  Fair size chunks of it already have, courtesy of some determined ferreting.  Some of it scrupulous, some less so.  In my schooldays this would have seen the light of day in the form of a scandalous 'exposé' in the now-defunct News of the World.  Now, thanks to the magic of the internet, considerable material can be amassed and pieced together bit by bit: a tweet here, a photo there, a wish list, a diary entry, a link.... there's a reason it's known as the "Web", you know.  Everyone can play at being detective: forget privacy settings, a picture of sorts can still be assembled.  It may be incomplete or inaccurate: stuff uploaded in all innocence or with the best of intentions can appear to assume a sinister significance far removed from the one its owner or author may have intended.  The finger of guilt will point.

And maybe that's the moral in this story for all of us.  If you're ever accused or suspected or wrongdoing, the thing that will hang, draw and quarter you - even if you're innocent - will be your Facebook page.

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