The media may often act as judge and jury, and with serious
consequences for criminals, as the News of the World’s recent actions
But phrases such as ’throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ spring to
mind over the news that Tony Martin - the Norfolk farmer who, depending
on your point of view, murdered a teenager or justifiably defended his
property - has sacked his legal team after disagreements on strategy
with his publicist Max Clifford. This comes just a month before his
appeal is due to be heard.
Ironically, the dispute has arisen over an interview arranged without
Clifford’s advice, which Martin believes may have harmed his cause.
Clifford has done a stellar job, winning high-profile support, including
pledges from Tory leader William Hague regarding law reform. He has made
Martin’s case a cause celebre by keeping it on the front pages.
But to what end? Every judge must just look at the evidence. And no
judge in the country wants to make decisions - or be seen to make
decisions - based on what the mass media demands.
Although one industry figure said, in this magazine, that any good
litigation PRO would need a touch of Clifford about them, he also said
the ruthless discretion of Alan Parker would be needed.
If litigation PR is to become an accepted part of corporate culture in
the UK, it will have to become a subtler art than merely winning the
support of the Daily Mail’s leader writers.