Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Watch your words
What do these two complexes have in common?
Well, for a time my home was just down the road from both; and I've been in both of them. One is Clifton College, where I went to school. The other is Stepping Hill Hospital, where I used to visit as a curate, not least when they were fighting for my son's life (maybe that's a slight over-dramatization, but he was desperately ill!). This year, however, they've both been in the national news for much sadder reasons. At the New Year, Clifton hit the headlines in connection with the murder near Bristol of the young architect, Joanna Yeates; Stepping Hill hit the news in July over suspicions of patients being killed with contaminated saline.
Today the BBC website for a time ran a headline: "Saline nurse 'scared' to go out". It was referring to Rebecca Leighton, the nurse at the hospital who'd been accused of tampering with the drips but since exonerated. It brought to mind the way the media presumed the guilt of Christopher Jefferies, Jo Yeates' landlord. He had been an English teacher at Clifton. He also proved to be innocent.
What both Jefferies and Leighton had in common was to be tried and found guilty by the press without trial, and without justification. I was glad to see that the headline had been changed to "Released nurse 'scared to go out'". Whether the press will ever learn is doubtful. But the damage is done. In her interview, Rebecca Leighton said, "I find it hard to look any further into the future than right here and now, but I'd love to have my life back, exactly how it was before." I'd love to have my life back... The pen is mighty, or, as St James said, "How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness." It's a dangerous lie that "words can never harm me". Words can do irreparable damage.