The death of ABC employee, Jill Meagher, has had a very sorry ending with the discovery of her raped and murdered body. The good news, if there is such a thing in these circumstances, has been the charging of Adrian Ernest Bayley, 41, for those offenses, provided that he is the actual rapist and murderer.
Where matters have a distinct possibility of coming unstuck is the amount of anti-Bayley social media commentary that has been so prevalent that it has lead to Victorian police calling for people to basically shut up. And I agree with them.
All of us have a fundamental right to a fair trial. A foundation stone of a fair trial is that a jury hears your case, free from prior mental contamination. Once something has become seen widely enough in a negative sense against the party facing trial, the process can become contaminated to the point that the courts decide a fair trial cannot occur and matters are dropped.
Possibly the most infamous case of this was when Derryn Hinch used his then-television program to publicly name and shame a pedophile who was facing a trial for abuse of minors. Hinch was clearly warned by the Court not to do so. But he shot his mouth off andwas subsequently found guilty of contempt of court, serving weekend detention. Hinch has made plenty of mileage out of that episode over the years, insisting it demonstrated his personal conviction etc. But what was the real outcome? An apparently known pedophile, facing a pretty strong case against him, had his charges dropped because of the contamination of potential process. I fail to see how Hinch's actions were anything more than a PR stunt that saw all sense of justice denied to all concerned.
The truly guilty should never be able to walk free simply because people refuse to shut their mouths. Are we entitled to our opinion? Yes. But if we really want the guilty to face the consequences of their actions, then we need to be careful how and where and when we express such opinion if it could provide a means of cases being dropped. If Adrian Ernest Bayley is guilty of the rape and murder of Jill Meagher, then while he deserves a fair trial, Meagher deserves to be remembered by her assailant paying for his crimes. Her family and friends deserve the degree of closure that a guilty verdict may provide. But should her rapist and murderer, Bayley or otherwise, walk free because people cannot shut their mouths, then it would be incredibly deceitful to her memory and an insult to her family and other loved ones.
So please, people, please - just shut the hell up about what you might want to do to Bayley and let judicial process take its course.