I may be wrong but . . . . . . the headline used by The New Zealand Herald newspaper this morning shows a shameful bias and double standard in reporting the outcomes of court cases.
The case concerned the Christchurch dad convicted of assaulting his children during an angry disciplinary session in the central city last year, and was described by the media as a showcase for the recently enacted so-called ‘anti-smacking’ legislation. Dad said he was very angry but only flicked his son’s ear, witnesses described a closed-fist punch to the face and some other rather forceful actions aimed at teaching the little boy a lesson.
The jury believed much of the evidence of the witnesses and the man was convicted yesterday. So far so commonplace for NZ courts.
The Herald’s page 1 heading this morning? “’Ear-flick’ father guilty of assault for punching son”. In other words, we (the Herald) believe the father – that it was just an ear-flick – but the jury thought otherwise. The word ear-flick was a totally unnecessary embellishment, designed probably to implant into the readers’ minds that this new law is criminalising ordinary people for harmless actions. (Or it was a lazy way of making the headline fit the space required for layout purposes.)
Imagine if other criminal court newspaper reports used the same headlining technique of stating the defendant’s excuse before stating the outcome! “Man sitting at home watching telly guilty of robbing bank”, “Man shooting at rabbits guilty of killing policeman chasing him”; “Woman tending to her garden guilty of cultivating cannabis for supply”.
If the Herald wants to promote opposition to the new legislation then let it use its editorial for that. But don’t put the excuses of convicted felons into the page 1 headlines.