Ian Monk: The mob is now judge and jury

John Terry, Chris Huhne and Fred Goodwin are all innocent - OK?

Ian Monk: The mob is now judge and jury
Ian Monk: The mob is now judge and jury

They are convicted of no crime, although two have been charged with criminal offences. Yet in public perception each stands convicted and humiliatingly punished.

Terry has had the England captain's armband removed from him for a second time, Huhne is out of the Cabinet and 'Sir' Fred, not accused of any criminal offence, has been stripped of his title and publicly vilified.

Innocent until proven guilty? In law, maybe, but not in the eyes of the public, where each seems fair game for the reputational equivalent of the lynch mob.

In what was once dubbed 'the court of public opinion', the rule appears to be guilty - until proven innocent.

Providing the PR that might establish a perception of innocence has proved beyond advisers to all three, whose reputations have been dismantled by headline writers, commentators and phone-in audiences.

To a lesser extent, the same applies to Stephen Hester, the man employed to turn around RBS for the taxpayer. His 'punishment' was to be stripped of a bonus legitimately awarded for his work in carrying out one of the biggest corporate restructures in British history.

As a result Hester's public standing is diminished. The mob, feeding off the image of Hester the huntsman (how devastating a picture can be), watches his every move.

Like it or not, trial by jury has largely been superseded by trial by media. Media advisers now operate in a world where the court of public opinion can take higher ranking than the criminal and civil courts.

Suppose Terry and Huhne are found not guilty at trial. Can the damage to their reputations ever be rectified?

It is hard to imagine 'Sir' Fred or his family ever feeling free of the threat of verbal or physical attack from the media-led mob forever seeking scapegoats.

Can Terry or Huhne again be fairly judged on the merits of their play or their politics?

Maybe, in this new order, it is appropriate that reputation managers practising in the court of public opinion should take higher order than lawyers whose brief covers defending in the now secondary courts of law.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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