Public interest or private: where do we draw line?

Too often we are reminded why Grub Street – a long since vanished London thoroughfare of grotty garrets amid boozers and brothels that served up the visceral pleasures of poverty stricken journalists and the purveyors of the product of their poisoned pens – became a pejorative term for the gutter press.

Last week's big story yet again raises questions about whether it is the public interest or satisfying its hunger for salacious titillation that gives rise to forests of newsprint being devoted to poor pixilated pictures and the sad story of an inappropriate relationship between a school teacher and a pupil.

On this, I am torn between the rights and wrongs of publishing the prequel to what eventually and inevitably will become a detailed psychological and physiological redtop dissection of Jeremy and Megan's few days in France.

I say this because I once had to deal with a completely different situation but one just as difficult.

When I was chairman of governors at a high school, a middle-aged teacher at our school was discovered to be having a relationship with a pupil – a relationship that was no less inappropriate or less worthy of heavy sanction for her being, just, 16. Confronted by the headmaster, the errant teacher confessed and was instantly dismissed.


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Before being brought to book, he skipped the country to North America where, as far as I know, he may to this day be pursuing his predatory ways. I say pursuing and predatory because on subsequent investigation we discovered from the police that he had form at his previous school.

A school that subsequently sent the man to us with glowing references; a school whose governors made every attempt to stonewall further inquiries about their actions and a local education authority only too anxious to draw a veil over the incident.

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I know the situation with the Forrests and Stammers is different which is why I wish them to be hastily out of the spotlight but not, if needs be, before any shortcomings of the school, its governorship or the local authority are made known and are dealt with.

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