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Friday 28 September 2012

Jill Meagher: negative comments on social media may hurt legal proceedings. Plus, family's statement

Following the sad news this morning that Jill Meagher's body has been found, and a man arrested and charged [see: http://www.josiesjuice.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/jill-meaghers-body-found-man-arrested.html] Jill's husband Tom has spoken outside the Melbourne Magistrates Court, thanking the public for its support.

"Despite the fact that this is the worst thing that we will ever go through in our lives, I've been really humbled by the support of the Australian public, the tireless efforts of the police and all the friends and families who've put their lives on hold to help us out.

"And while I really appreciate all the support I just would like to mention that negative comments on social media may hurt legal proceedings, so please be mindful of that," Tom said.

There you have it: a statement against negative comments on social media, with very good reason. Let's hope people who enjoy a flippant, negative rant on social media sites can understand why and keep a lid on it.

Here's further explanation why social media can have a negative effect:

While police concede the social media campaign to find Ms Meagher helped in the investigation, they are now concerned about the potential of 'trial by social media'.

The Facebook page established soonafter Jill's disappearance has attracted more than 122,000 'likes', and while most messages offer genuine words of support and concern, other people elsewhere online have posted comments that are deemed to potentially prejudice court proceedings.

On the Facebook site, this message from Victoria Police:

"We thank you for your on-going support at this difficult time.

“Please remember that it is inappropriate to post speculation or comments about matters before the courts. We ask you to refrain from posting anything on social media which could jeopardise or endanger the presumption of innocence, as this has the very high potential to interfere with the administration of justice,” it said.

A Tweet echoed the same: "Please remember posting comments which endanger the presumption of innocence can also jeopardise a trial."

Also today, Ms Meagher's uncle, Michael McKeon, released a statement on behalf of Jill's family in Ireland [her parents and brother have been living in Perth for several years, while her and her husband's extended families are in Ireland].

"We are devastated. We are heartbroken. She was the first grand-child my mother had and her aunts, uncles and cousins are powerless to describe their loss.

"There are no words to describe how we feel at what has happened. We had hope yesterday when there was no evidence of foul play but when the man in the CCTV footage was arrested we feared the worst.

"We acknowledge the role that social media has played in the search for Jill. We believe that it has helped us in the search but it is not the outcome we had hoped and prayed for.

"We thank the people around the world who have supported us.

"Both the McKeon family and Meagher family will have to plan now to grieve for Jillian and this is going to be one of the hardest things given that only three years ago we came together for the marriage of this lovely couple."

Photo courtesy: Herald Sun.

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