Brian Edwards Media

Espiner versus Turei – A Reassessment

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In a recent post Judy praised Metiria Turei’s performance on last Sunday’s Q & A and had this to say about interviewer Guyon Espiner:

‘The wee fox terrier of politics produced the most appalling exhibition of interruptive interviewing in years.

‘The joy was that his guest, Metiria Turei, had him on toast. She handled the endless, non-stop, verbal diarrhea of interruptions with humour, grace and steely determination. In terms of handling interruptive interviewers, this is a master class.

‘Respect, Metiria,’

New Zealand Herald media commentator John Drinnan strongly disagreed. In his column in Friday’s Business Herald he wrote:

‘Last week this column noted Paul Henry’s solid performance on Breakfast interviewing Civil Defence spokesman Colin Feslier over preparations for a potential tsunami. And on Sunday TVNZ political editor Guyon Espiner showed a new edge interviewing Green Party leader Metiria Turei.

‘The weekly political show Q & A on Sunday was tough and direct and nailed the Green leader as she obfuscated over the party’s diddling of taxpayers for accommodation allowances. Espiner is more intellectual than Duncan Garner on TV3, which is not always a bad thing.

‘This was what good television and what TV political interviewing should be all about – holding politicians to account and not being diverted by words that seek to camouflage.’

In a mildly offensive comment on Judy’s post, Drinnan had previously asked:  ‘Has Callingham & Edwards provided media training for Turei?’

I call this ‘mildly offensive’ because the clear implication of the question was that Judy was praising Turei because she was one of our clients. She isn’t. Indeed neither of us has ever met her.

Of greater interest to me were the diametrically opposed assessments of Espiner’s and Turei’s performances from two people whose judgements on media matters I greatly respect. So I took another look at the interview.

Drinnan’s criticism of Turei was that she ‘obfuscated over the party’s diddling of taxpayers for accommodation allowances’. He praised Espiner for  ’holding politicians to account and not being diverted by words that seek to camouflage.’

Here are the facts:

Nowhere in the interview does Turei deny that earlier this year Green MPs had fixed the rent for one of the properties owned by the Green Futures Super Trust at twice its market value and claimed accommodation expenses from Parliamentary Services at that rate. She concedes this throughout the interview.

She agrees throughout the interview that this was a mistake and a bad look.

She goes on to say that in June the Greens fixed the mistake by reducing the rental assessment to less than the market value and that they have refunded the over-claimed amount to Parliamentary Services.

Eleven times in the interview, she says, ‘We made a mistake, we fixed it and we refunded the money.’  Eleven times!

This is not enough for Espiner who asks, ‘Where was the press release on that?’ The Greens’ crime was apparently that they had not put out a press release to tell the nation that they had done the right thing. Preposterous!

I need to say this about Espiner. He is highly intelligent. He is the best informed political commentator in the broadcast media. He is an extremely good interviewer.

But Judy was right and Drinnan was wrong.  This was not an example of ‘holding politicians to account’; it was an example of attempting (unsuccessfully) to browbeat an interviewee who had not only answered the question, but answered it eleven times, not with ‘obfuscation’ but with the clearest possible statement that her party had made a mistake, fixed the mistake and refunded the over-claimed sum of around $6,000.

In an earlier post I referred to Sir Robin Day’s Code for Television Interviewers. There are ten points in the Code. That last two are:

9. He should press his questions firmly and persistently, but not tediously, offensively, or merely in order to sound tough.

10. He should remember that a television interviewer is not employed as a debater, prosecutor, inquisitor, psychiatrist or third-degree expert, but as a journalist seeking information on behalf of the public. 

Espiner was in breach of both of these guidelines. He was flogging a dead horse.

Earlier in the interview he had asked Turei to answer ‘Yes or No’ to a question on the Greens’ policy on Free Trade Agreements, an area which he himself stated often involved a difficult balance between economic and moral imperatives. He apparently failed to see the contradiction between that and demanding a simplistic ‘Yes or No’ answer.

I like and admire Espiner, but I suggest that each night before bed he repeats these words to himself: ‘I will press my questions firmly and persistently, but not tediously, offensively or merely in order to sound tough.”

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37 Comments:

  1. Maybe the Green’s accommodation scam would have been better as a standard news story.

    But What did Espiner do wrong exactly – being “tedious and offensive?”

    Turei performed well and a soft interviewer would have allowsed it to appear that the accommodation deal was a slip-up.

    I think Espiner dug in and made it clear that The Greens should not have been sitting on their hight horse.

    Lord knows I would not compare Espiner with the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman.

    But I suppose you could level the same accusation about Paxo and the infamous Michael Howard interview.

    Tedious and offensive.

    I like your Sir Robin Day list..

    But nowadays don’t politicians have extraordinary taxpayer funded resources to smother obfuscate and evade questions -training from experts like Callingham Edwards

    What resources were available to politicians in the 60s and 70s?

    You should encourage interruptive tactics like those employed by Espiner.

    If TV interviewers were nice would pollies need media trainers.

    • I like your Sir Robin Day list.. But nowadays don’t politicians have extraordinary taxpayer funded resources to smother obfuscate and evade questions -training from experts like Callingham Edwards

      John

      For the record, Robin Day believed that coaching would be of no help to politicians at all. Once you were in that studio facing the interviewer, you were on your own.

      Obfuscation and evading questions are precisely the opposite of what we advise our clients to do. Our advice has always been that the most effective strategy in dealing with the media is to be straightforward, tell the truth and admit your mistakes.

      I can see no point in being interruptive for the sake of it, which appears to be your position. For one thing, it’s insulting to the viewer who is quite capable of making up his/her own mind if the interviewee is ‘obfuscating’ or failing to address the question. If Turei was indeed doing that, I would have thought it would have become obvious to viewers after her third repetition of her position, and certainly before her eleventh. There are three people in every interview – the interviewer, the interviewee and the viewer. The viewer has a mind and doesn’t have to have everything spelt out for him/her, as if they were idiots.

      By the way, I’d still be interested to know the reason behind your question as to whether Turei or the Greens were our clients.

      Regards

      Brian

  2. Hear Hear!

  3. OOps. My “hear hear” was sent for Brian’s post.
    I am not impressed with John’s defence of Guyon’s interview. It does not address Guyon’s interruptions and his causing an 11x repetition of the Green position. The only defence of Guyon’s style of “interview” would be if he was equally “persistent” with the current crop of Ministers. And he is not. Instead there is a belief (misguided?) that Guyon is obsequious with say John Key, in case a job comes up for him in Government PR. Shame on you Guyon and John.

    • The only defence of Guyon’s style of “interview” would be if he was equally “persistent” with the current crop of Ministers.

      Interesting point and one which occurred to me as well. I don’t want to do him a disservice, but I can’t remember him interviewing the PM, any cabinet minister or, for that matter, any senior front bench Labour MP in quite this way. Perhaps he regarded a young, fairly inexperienced party leader as either fair game or easy meat. I hope not.

  4. “Interruptive”, you say? Hell, I though Espiner treated Metiria Turei like he was handling fragile, priceless Wedgwood porcelain — given that it was supposed to be a no-holds-barred calling up.

    Dudes, reality check here: the Greens have been unmasked as the lying, conniving, duplicitous, venal two-faced hypocrites that they really are. While it was bad enough, with their railing against the other parties — over their housing allowance claims — these practiced malfeasants were well and truly rorting the taxpayer, themselves. Worse, still, they tried to conceal from the public, once the auditor general brought it to their notice.

    Riding on their white horse, galloping across the moral high ground, while trumpeting the “Holier than Thou” crusade, makes me dry retch.
    If you think Espiner’s interviewing style was truly “interruptive”, then I’d say your response is ‘interpretative’; perhaps, a reflection of your own political leanings towards the Green Party.

    You thought Metira acquitted herself with “humour, grace and steely determination”? Others, less enamoured with the Greens’ rancidness, might see it as ‘coy, cloying and calculated’. And what about the breathtaking brazenness with their denial of wrongdoing? Glibly, pleading blissful ignorance, as the revelation was eddying out.

    Espiner could’ve been a whole lot more pointed — and damning — with the Green’s moral probity, but he reverted to type (amenable), and comported himself as Mr Nice Guy (‘scuse the pun). Content to play verbal footsies with a combatant who fortified herself against his ‘blistering onslaught’ by just being, well, “Nice”. He ‘shoulda’ had Turei on the rack, instead, one could be forgiven that he was serving her up a rack of lamb. He was out-manoeuvred by someone who was rather adept at the pantomime of contrition. God, the lack of grunt from our interviewers, makes me want to weep.

    • the Greens have been unmasked as the lying, conniving, duplicitous, venal two-faced hypocrites that they really are. While it was bad enough, with their railing against the other parties — over their housing allowance claims — these practiced malfeasants were well and truly rorting the taxpayer, themselves.

      You destroy your argument by ridiculous hyperbole, Merv . Indeed, it’s not really an argument at all but a party political rant.

      By the way, I didn’t see any ‘denial of wrongdoing’ by Turei. As I mentioned in my piece she actually agreed that the Greens had made a mistake on eleven occasions. And even if I agreed with you, and Turei was attempting to hide something, that would surely have been obvious to any viewer after her first or second denial. Why go on flogging this dead horse? The interviewer’s job, by the way, is not to be a public prosecutor, but to seek information on the part of the viewer. Most of this “tough interviewing’ has more to do with the interviewers’ egos than with getting to the truth. There is no more self-righteous group than journalists.

  5. An interesting discussion- and thank you Brian and Judy for being willing to discuss it.
    Brian, you seem to arguing that your view of good interviewing practices is such eminently good sense that they are not just in interests of your media training clients, but also in the best interests of the public.
    Which is one way of looking at it, I guess.
    I don’t mean to be rude,
    I’m just skeptical whether politicians – or businesspeople for that matter – who pay large amount of money to sell themselves and their brands – are always happy to answer questions whether they have done something wrong. And sometimes TV interviewers have to press harder for an answer.
    Maybe you are astute in choosing your clients .
    Do you never teach clients how to fudge or evade awkward questions. Isn’t that part of what they pay media trainers for
    It would terrible if all interviews were badgering and interruptive – but lets face it there are plenty of cases for politicians being let off the hook.

    PS re Turei query – she just seemed like she had had media training – but as reported the Greens say she has not.

    • Do you never teach clients how to fudge or evade awkward questions. Isn’t that part of what they pay media trainers for

      What most people pay media trainers for, John, is to help them level the playing field a little.

      Think about it: you’re in a strange, alien environment, you have to put your case lucidly in a highly constrained time frame, there may be hundreds of thousands of people watching you and you’re probably paralyzed with nervousness . You also have someone putting questions to you who may be outwardly hostile to either you or those you represent. Your reputation, your business, your organisation are at stake.

      Going into a major television interview without some professional advice or training is about as sensible as accepting a match with Nadal without having a tennis lesson.

      And for the record – we never teach clients to fudge or evade awkward questions. Our mantra is: be straight-forward, tell the truth and admit your mistakes. And if you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be doing the interview, because sooner or later you will be found out.

  6. Yet another example of the interesting phenomenon that whatever viewpoint is put forward by someone in a newspaper, interview, blog or whatever, there will always be someone else who will put forward the exact opposite viewpoint, with both parties believing they are ‘right’ and the other ‘wrong’.
    So who defines what is “the truth”?

    • So who defines what is “the truth”?

      Yes, interesting observation. Probably the best thing to say is that, as in a court case, we try to reach a conclusion on who is telling the truth by dispassioinately considering the evidence. But in the end we may still not known whether justice was done or not. For example, I’m reasonably convinced that in a decade or less Philip Field will be seen to have been the victim of a major injustice. But I may be wrong. When they invent a failsafe lie-detector, we’ll have a better chance of getting at the truth. And a lot of lawyers will be put our of work.

  7. It wasn’t supposed to be a “rant”. And, maybe, I should’ve prefaced “wrongdoing” with ‘deliberate’. But, please, tell me: how can you hold yourself out as a paragon of moral virtuosity when you’re furtively darting in and out of the twilight shadows, naked under a grubby gabardine trench coat?

    You’ve got it right by saying there’s not much point in flogging a deceased equine. The exercise becomes less about the interviewer gaining
    insight/explanation from the interviewee as it is about devolving down to a battle of respective
    conceits. Usually, the interviewer’s ego trying to smother the interviewee’s. Any interviewer who sets out with a pre-determined agenda to demean and embarrass his subject, isn’t too highly credentialed in my opinion. I would allow one exception: it was always disheartening, to me,
    that Winston Peters was able to flummox so many interviewers. He did it by being allowed to go off on so many different tangents, that his responses resembled abstract Euclidean geometry. He dumbfounded everyone, including the
    mathematicians amongst us.

    A skilled interviewer should be able to think quickly on his feet, to edify through constant challenging. But remaining dispassionate, fair and objective.

    • A skilled interviewer should be able to think quickly on his feet, to edify through constant challenging. But remaining dispassionate, fair and objective.

      Great. Let’s agree on that.

  8. I had thought that the quite divergent views of the interview – Callingham/Edwards vs Drinnan, The Standard vs Kiwiblog etc. – was a very interesting .

    I took Epsiner’s line of questioning as being one of incredulity – the argument that the Greens were being open with the public because their leader came on television to discuss has to be disingenuous at best. It wasn’t that he hadn’t heard the answer offered 11 times, he didn’t think it was good enough. A got the impression that he viewed it as a “line” – such as others would accuse Crosby/Textor as crafting for John Key – to be used to sound good, and avoid answering the actual question posed.

    As for the rest of the interview, there are certainly times when insistence on a yes/no answer is stupid. A question about free trade – is usually one of these – the answer – for just about everyone – is going to be that they are sometimes in favour of free trade and sometimes not. The circumstances in which free trade is good will be complex and multi-layered.

    That was why I thought the CER question was a good one, and one that can be properly answered with a “yes” or “no”. It’s not a question being asked in isolation, in matters such as this the details are important, and they are abundant when an actual circumstances – the question is basically ‘taking all you know about CER, its exact terms, how it works in practice, the good and the bad aspects of it as you see them, do you support CER?

    It can reasonably be answered with a “yes” or a “no”, and the option for a ‘yes, although there are some aspects we would change to make it fairer’ or a ‘no, the negatives of CER outweigh the positives, but we do see that there are significant areas where we can and should co-operate with Australia in economic matters’ is also available.

    • I had thought that the quite divergent views of the interview – Callingham/Edwards vs Drinnan, The Standard vs Kiwiblog etc. – was a very interesting .

      Anyone who has read Hager’s The Hollow Men would know that there can be no comparison between those charlatans and the Greens or indeed almost any other parliamentary party. We need a little perspective here. The Green’s ‘offending’ lasted for 12 weeks before it was put right and the amount they voluntarily returned was $6,000. This cannot be compared with the endemice and estabished rorting of the expenses system by other parties and their ministers.

      I’m not sure what Espiner wanted Turei to say. ‘Yes we are absolute crooks, no different from any of the other crooks. And not only that, we did it deliberately and we’re not sorry’. This style of interviewing goes back to Paul Holmes and Dennis Connors. The interviewers won’t be satisfied with anything less than a ‘mea culpa, mea maxima culpa’. They seem themselves as prosecutors not as interviewers. It’s all to do with building their own reputation and image. I know, because I’ve done it myself. But what this interruptive, haranguing style produces is a lot of heat and very little light.

      As for FTAs, I disagree with you totally. When morality and economic gain are in conflict there is rarely a question that can be simply answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The interviewee is fully entitled to say, ‘Neither of those is my answer to the question’.

  9. Merv: Still enjoy pulling the cat’s tail for pleasure?

  10. Espiner as “highly intelligent, best informed and extremely good” : yet flawed by obsessive-compulsive tendencies. This is no delirious fox terrier, he’s pure rabid staffordshire bully when he smells prey.
    I too thought him astute, until I saw his jaws bearing down on Winston Peters on his way to his mother’s funeral. Any other time I would have borne a small mad voyeuristic smile, but this act was cringe making. He appears to lose his sense of proportion and sensitivity when under the heady influence of his own targeted and highly selective opinions.
    The fact that Espiner persisted in attacking Turei from one angle suggests that he went into the interview with only one issue to flagellate her with, therefore he was ill prepared and biased before the interview began. He can certainly no longer be accused of bearing anything resembling an objective stance.
    What a waste of potential talent.

  11. I invite readers to go to the TVNZ website and watch Guyon Espiner’s recent Q & A interviews with Paula Bennett and John Key, perhaps other Ministers too.

    I have no problem with rigorous and persistent interviewing. But in the interviews I mention, Espiner fails, dismally.

    It is a cop-out to say “matter of opinion”, etc. It is not difficult to analyse interviews: for example, count the number of times the politician is interrupted, or the time allowed before the interruption. By any objective measurement, Guyon Espiner has been much, much softer on government Ministers. That is completely unprofessional.

    A self-respecting news organisation would demand higher standards. Sadly, he works for TVNZ.

  12. I don’t really have any problems with Espiner doing a Plunkett on Turei. What I have a problem with is he NEVER does to government ministers, who he usually coos his way through interviews with – his infamous non-interview with Paula Bennett springs to mind here.

  13. BE: Has anyone explored the possibility that some witnesses in the Field case were hoping for a reward of residency?

    • BE: Has anyone explored the possibility that some witnesses in the Field case were hoping for a reward of residency?

      That thought had occurred to me. I very much doubt that the Thai tilers expect to be sent home at the end of all of this. I spent several hours with Field a year or so back, going over all his documents. At the end, I concluded that the Field family’s crime may have been one of generosity. I suspect that we have not heard the last of this case. In any event the penalty, pompously delivered by the judge, struck me as absolutely brutal.

  14. “For example, I’m reasonably convinced that in a decade or less Philip Field will be seen to have been the victim of a major injustice. But I may be wrong. When they invent a failsafe lie-detector, we’ll have a better chance of getting at the truth. And a lot of lawyers will be put our of work.”

    Although this is utterly off topic Dr Edwards, I would like to know your reasoning.

    I personally found the argument of cultural appropriateness in support of Field’s actions pretty thin. Given, Field was an experienced MP, so can not claim ignorance of the expectations of an MP.

  15. You answered before I got my question in.

    Thank you.

  16. Anyone who has read Hager’s The Hollow Men would know that there can be no comparison between those charlatans and the Greens or indeed almost any other parliamentary party. We need a little perspective here.

    I wasn’t creating such a comparison. There was a suggestion somewhere that a line Bill English was using repeatedly a while back (something like “what’s important to me is my family, I’m not prepared to put them at risk”) was a line that was crafted to try to garner sympathy and get people off his back. He used it a number of times over a period of a few days, and it was suggested that the line might have been formulated by Crosby/Textor. I was suggesting that Espiner viewed the line offered – offered 11 times irrespective of the actual question asked – in a similar light.

    This wasn’t intended to bring the Greens within all the other things Crosby/Textor is alleged to have done, just one of the more inoffensive ones.

    As for FTAs, I disagree with you totally. When morality and economic gain are in conflict there is rarely a question that can be simply answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The interviewee is fully entitled to say, ‘Neither of those is my answer to the question’.

    Yet MPs – practically by definition – have to answer yes/no questions all the time. That’s basically all that legislation is – and it’s certainly what third reading debates present: “Do you support the changes to the law this bill incorporates?” … those in favour say “aye”, those opposed say “no”.

    “We passed legislation that implemented CER, would you have voted for it? If legislation was proposed no to repeal it, would you support that?” These are yes/no questions I don’t think it unreasonable for MPs to answer.

  17. At the end, I concluded that the Field family’s crime may have been one of generosity. I suspect that we have not heard the last of this case. In any event the penalty, pompously delivered by the judge, struck me as absolutely brutal.

    I think you may be being a bit hard on the judge here. Your arguments are essentially that Field isn’t guilty of corruption – but the judge can’t sentence on this basis.

    There is a finding of guilt on corruption charges by the jury, the judge is just looking for the correct sentence for someone convicted of such charges. Arguments that tend to show innocence aren’t relevant to a judge in such circumstances – they’ve effectively been rejected beyond reasonable doubt by the jury.

    Six years (and out in two) is (obviously) excessive for someone “guilty of generosity”, but perhaps is appropriate for someone guilty of corruption.

    • I think you may be being a bit hard on the judge here. Your arguments are essentially that Field isn’t guilty of corruption – but the judge can’t sentence on this basis.

      Quite right of course: the judge can’t sentence on that basis and must accept the verdict of the jury. But in general sentencing judges have a reasonaby wide discretion. The severity of the Field sentence, I believe, was based on the fact that he was a Minister of the Crown, a man holding high office who had abused his position for personal gain. But the gain, it seems to me, was relatively small – he got some tiling and other work done. This wasn’t the sort of corruption we’ve seen recently in the New Zealand or international finance sectors. Not even the sort of corruption we’re seeing in the British parliament. This was small beer. Field also had the misfortune to be the first cabinet minister in our history to be convicted of this sort of offence. I suspect there was a strong element in the sentence of precedent setting or deterrence. ‘Pour encourager les autres’. Deterrent sentences have always struck me as inherently unjust – the accused has to pay for the potential future crimes of others with a stiffer sentence. Finally, there are attractive defendants and unattractive defendants and this can influence a jury. Arthur Alan Thomas was a classic example of the unattractive defendant. Though to a lesser degree, so was Field. Not the sort of person you warm to. But, as you say, that isn’t a matter which the judge can take into account.

  18. I must have missed something since I am unclear how the topic of Espiner’s interview style switched abruptly to the Field case. I would only commnet the sentence on Field is totaly disproportionate when measured against some sentences for crimes of violence. I can go out tonight, get drunk and kill a family of four and consider myself unlucky to get more than a couple of years. I can rape two children and only get four and half years per child. I have the feeling that the ‘establishment’ set out to nail Field.

    As regards Espiner I agree with earlier comments; his interviewing style when dealing with government ministers is altogether softer but that applies to most of the media.

  19. “But the gain, it seems to me, was relatively small – he got some tiling and other work done”.

    That is really over-simplifing his crimes, almost trivialising them. It was a lot more serious than that. ‘Tiler’ Field actively set out to subvert the course of the police’s investigation by doctoring evidence and counselling witnesses to change their stories; in doing so, he was perverting the course of justice. This was not a case of someone getting tiling done on the cheap; it was a case of someone, who, egergiously, abused his ministerial position to offer enticements by way of an illicit quid pro quo, which strikes at the very heart of this country’s governance.

    He’s cost the country literally millions $s, with the Ingram Enquiry and the High Court trial. I think he got off lightly.

    • That is really over-simplifing his crimes, almost trivialising them.

      Yes, if you accept the evidence. I have serious doubts. My view is that self-interested lying by his accusors and some enemies played a significant part in the verdict. We’ll see.

  20. As far as Field goes, I think Justice was served. The only thing is that Helen Clark should be doing time in the cell next to him: she is also guilty of perverting the course of Justice – many times over..

  21. All those, Labour supporters or not, who think that Field was wrongly convicted, then you’re either deranged or deluded. Or both. And, please, credit the jury with having more sense than being swayed by the “attractive” or “unattractive” appearances of the defendant, when arriving at their verdict. It’s a little insulting. Oh, yeah, Helen Clark should be in the next cell. Remember this: “The only thing he’s guilty of his helping other people”. She really wanted her lapdog (Noel Ingram) to exonerate him, so as not to weaken her hold on power.

    • All those, Labour supporters or not, who think that Field was wrongly convicted, then you’re either deranged or deluded.

      Your usual well-reasoned argument, Mark S. As it happens, I co-authored a book on murder in New Zealand with the late Mike Bungay, QC, an expert on criminal defence. His firm view was that the attractiveness (in terms of personality) or otherwise of the defendant was significant in affecting a jury’s judgement. No doubt you could have put him right.

  22. “No doubt you could have put him right”.

    Well, hold on, that’s not what you first mentioned. It was taken to be purely aesthetic — that is, physical looks. Now you’ve just added in “personality” which adds another dimension and transcends “appearances”. A defendant’s personality can be conflated with “demeanour”, and how one conduct him/herself under cross-examination. Which means: body language, eye contact (or lack thereof), quivering mouth, gesticulations; as well as a whole raft of other telltale signs giving clues as to the likely veracity as to what’s been offered up by the accused, to get off the hook.

    We all know of people, who, at first glance, seem attractive but are just ugly. You need to look no further than Clayton Weatherston: an OK-looking Mr. Average guy. But, in court, someone who came across as repellent and thoroughly loathsome. Sniggering, sneering, condescending, haughty and narcissistic. And that was his in-court
    “personality”. And it, obviously, didn’t predispose the jury to regard him with much sympathy, in their deliberations. If anything, it helped to erase the last remaining vestiges of doubt, as to his shaky defence, of being provoked.

    I believe, Field had the unmistakable “look of guilt”; shifty-eyed and far too self-possessed, bordering on smug. Clutching that red bible, at sentencing, was proof positive of my thoughts.

    • Well, hold on, that’s not what you first mentioned. It was taken to be purely aesthetic — that is, physical looks.

      I didn’t actually mention physical looks at all, though I can see one might have taken it that way. I gave Arthur Allan Thomas as an example. There was nothing particular about his physical appearance, but things were revealed about him in the trials that made him seem a very unattractive person. It was said, for example, that he kept the public hairs of earlier girlfriends in a matchbox. In the dock his demeanour was unappealing. I think that, in a less extreme form, this was also the case with Field. As I said, “not someone you’d warm to”.

      In cases where there is complex forensic evidence, juries are often unable to weigh the scientific evidence and will rely on their intuition, their overall impression of the person in the dock. It’s not a bad way of operating. And it will often include appearance and demeanour.

      In general, I don’t disagree with what you’ve said in your comment.

  23. The problem with modern political and corporately owned journalists is that they are far too close to streetwalkers.How on earth can any Journalist who is paid by a Prime Minister or a Corporate entity do their jobs without either solid political or corporate bias? They simply can’t, and they bring their whole profession into deep disrepute by constantly professing that they are impartial. A Corporate or a political Horse is simply a Corporate or Political horse who is constantly being saddled up and ridden by their employers for profit and gain.This is why “blogging” is now hugely successful. I and the public would rather a soapbox orator anyday than a corporate whore.