Who pays the piper…

13 February 2007 – Publishers of books, newspapers and films who glorify the exploits of real-life criminals should contribute compensation to the victims of crime from their profits,  according to a submission made by the journalism ethics charity MediaWise to the Home Office consultation of ‘Making sure that crime doesn’t pay’. Payments to former criminals should be taxed at source.

Former criminals who have served their sentence, shown remorse and made some effort to effect a reconciliation with the victims of their crimes should not be prevented from writing their memoirs, or taking up jobs in the mass media, according to MediaWise Director Mike Jempson. Unless there are over-riding considerations of the public interest, including evidence of miscarriages of justice, publication deals with former criminals should normally be delayed until time limits imposed by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 have elapsed. In the submission he argues for a requirement to register the terms of such deals, and to indicate how payments have been made. All such payments should be subject to income tax.

“It is important that the public should be able to understand the causes of crime and the mindset and behaviour of criminals,” says Jempson. “However it is equally important that the public, including victims and their relatives, know what payments are being made to whom, by publishers who stand to gain financially from such deals. These measures should help to put an end to lurid or sensational media coverage that risks retraumatising victims and their families”

(Bulletin No 132)

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