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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
Roger rants, you decide.
Topic: Politics

Over at Roger's Rants, Ipswich-based Roger Kirkham is blogging about the trial of Steve Wright, accused of the murder of five women (the reports started on January 14th). Roger himself met one of the victims, as she solicited for business near where he lives - which is also not far from the home of the accused. He was also interviewed by police four times.

I can't tell from the reporting we've had on this case whether the police really have much on this man that a good defence brief can't swat away fairly easily. Wright admits having sex with four of the five victims and that could account for some, if not all, of any DNA evidence submitted.

I'm a bit worried about something that he says in an aside:

There is one other piece of circumstantial evidence that the jury will know. If the killer isn’t Steve Wright, then how come the killings stopped the moment he was arrested?

I've often wondered whether prosecutions ever advance this argument and would be interested to hear from Roger whether it's used. It's going to be an interesting case and I shall be following his reports with interest.

Separately, I'm a little bit disappointed with Roger for what I consider to be a fairly disingenous comment he's made on Melanie Phillips' blog (now hosted on the Spectator website). On the 21st January, he wrote:

"What an embarrassment Mel's blog is becoming. She accuses one of the world's great civilisations of being uncivilised because it refuses to condone theft."

It's the use of tense in the first sentence that bothers me. 'Is becoming' implies that there was a time, not too long ago, when Roger thought Mel's blog wasn't embarrassing. Yet in the years that I've been reading Rogers-Rants, I can't recall a single time he has said anything nice about her. For as long as I can remember he's portrayed her in a negative light: as "Mad Mel" and "Smelanie". Why suggest that there's something recent about his disapproval?

_ DY at 4:21 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008 5:10 PM GMT
Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink

Friday, 25 January 2008 - 2:36 PM GMT

Name: "roGER"
Home Page:

David is right, the wording of my comment about Mel should have been clearer.

I suppose I wrote 'becoming' because presumably the editor of The Spectator thought it would be a good idea to host Mel's blog on the magazine's site and it's a relatively new development (I've not checked but if memory serves she's been posting there about 3 months maybe less).

While disagreeing with much of the stuff in The Spectator, I've always respected the magazine for a certain intellectual standard and integrity. Sadly those are not values I'd associate with Mel Philips.


Your comment about the "well, why have the killings stopped?" argument is interesting and was a point I'm hoping to clarify in a future post.

Like you, I've never heard of a prosecution lawyer explicitly making such a claim. I wonder if it's so obvious they don't bother or if there is a specific prohibition against making such an argument?

Such prohibitions do exist - for instance if someone is on trial for burglary, the prosecution isn't allowed to point out that the accused has been convicted of burglary in the past. I believe the idea is that each trial must stand on it's own merits and be treated as a separate entity.

Your comment also raises the question of location.

I'm sure I wasn't the only one surprised that the case would be heard in Ipswich itself.

It would be hard to find anyone in Suffolk, let alone the town who hadn't heard a few rumours about this case before it went to trial. If I were on Steve Wright's legal team, I'd have been pressing for a trial at the Old Bailey where the jury would be far less likely to have heard stuff 'on the grapevine.'

Lastly, I certainly wasn't the only person to get interviewed by the Police four times! They seem to have interviewed everyone in the street at least twice, and my neighbours joked that they were interviewed so many times the Police knew more about their marriage than they did!

Thanks for your comments.

- roGER 


Tuesday, 29 January 2008 - 9:39 AM GMT

Name: "Yaffle"

When I did jury service I assumed that the accused had previous form since there was no attempt by the defence to establish good character. After all, there's nothing stopping your lawyer telling the jury that you have no previous convictions if that is the truth. This renders secrecy pointless and is probably one of the reasons why the rules were changed in 2003. I've checked this with my barrister neighbour, who tells me that you can now inform the jury of the defendant's previous convictions if they are 'relevant'. What is relevant and what isn't has to be argued before the judge in the particular case, but broadly speaking if the accused is up for burglary then having a previous conviction for burglary will not be enough. On the other hand, if he's been convicted of ten burglaries then that will probably be heard. However, even one burglary will be enough if there are very specific circumstances - eg. he wore an unusual hat on that occasion and witnesses have described a similar hat this time round. There is also the opportunity for the defendant to make something relevant by his own stupidity. eg if someone in a GBH trial takes the stand and claims not to be a violent person, then his four previous convictions for assault will promptly be read out to the jury as his brief buries his head in his hands.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008 - 9:27 PM GMT

Name: "roGER"
Home Page:

Thanks for the clarification and some nice examples of how it works.

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