Both sides of the mouth

Bob
Bob Wakeham
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So let’s make sure we have this straight: lawyer Greg Stack, angered with the media because of the excessive publicity he believes was given to charges against one of  his clients (a pharmacist charged with fraud and forging prescriptions) lowered himself to use those same shockingly insensitive news agencies to talk, at some length, about that very case. 

And since he had those disgusting reporters at his disposal, Stack took full advantage and eagerly laid out at least part of what will apparently be his defence: that his client, and a second pharmacist charged and represented by another lawyer, have been victimized by a complex recording system required these days of pharmacists.

In other words, according to the Stack lecture: don’t ever write or record or videotape anything that will prejudice my client’s chance at a fair trial, but please write and record and videotape whatever I have to say about his innocence.

And it wasn’t just the case of the pharmacists that drew lawyer Stack to the journalistic vultures last week.

With another whiff of irony in the air, Stack utilized the media — The Telegram — to complain about delays in compensation for men he represents who were sexually abused by pedophile priest Jim Hickey.

 

Different cases

Now I realize there’s a dramatic difference in the severity of the two cases, and I obviously recognize, as would any fool, that Stack’s client, pharmacist Lloyd Bennett, has been charged but has yet to go to trial, while Hickey pleaded guilty over 20 years ago, was sentenced to five years in prison, and has since died.

But it’s still another illustration of lawyers like Stack exploiting the media whenever it’s expedient, whenever it’s totally to their advantage.  

Jim Hickey — whose picture on the front page of last Saturday’s Telegram gave me the cold shivers — ruined countless young lives, and was one real bastard (a word that shouldn’t be tossed around loosely in public print, but is totally appropriate here).

But when he was first charged, Hickey was an innocent bastard, innocent until proven guilty (as Stack describes his client, the pharmacist). Nevertheless, we, the media, had cameras capturing his every moment entering and leaving court, and print and electronic journalists back then began to constantly hound the Catholic brass to comment (not with a great deal of success) on the charges against Hickey and other child-molesting priests as the scandal grew in dramatic and frightening fashion.

Since Stack takes the position that contacting organizations responsible for overseeing the profession of pharmacists was totally improper, you have to wonder whether he felt the media were totally out of line when we looked to the Church for an opinion when priests like Hickey still had not been convicted.

And since Stack also felt the cops had been too loose-tongued with their information about the case against his client, and that the media were indiscriminating puppets, I wonder whether he felt we went too far in pursuing the cops back then. Was that prejudicing the cases against the priests? Was it violating their basic right to be viewed as innocent until proven guilty?

 

Different era

I can tell you from experience that there was a time when dealing with the local cops was an exercise in futility, when you were practically forced to track down the investigating officer on each and every case, both major and minor crimes.

But, somewhere along the way, the cops gained some sense, and become conscious of their obligation to deliver information to the public through the media. 

And that’s the point that Stack seems to have completely missed. 

The media gives the public access to the justice system, and ensures, for example, that courtroom proceedings are not limited to just those who are able to be there.

And every Tom, Dick and Harriet can’t pick up the phone and seek comment or reaction from organizations in authority, the Catholic Church or the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board. Again, that’s the responsibility of the media, on behalf of the public.

If Stack had his way, I would assume there would never be cameras allowed near the courtrooms and reporters would be absolutely prohibited from obtaining any sort of perspective on priests charged with molesting youngsters or pharmacists charged with fraud. 

Lawyers, I guess, would create the parameters.

We’ll just let the lawyers call the shots.     

Objectivity would prevail.               

 

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.

Organizations: Catholic Church, Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Cyril Rogers
    February 06, 2011 - 20:30

    Mr. Wakeham, I enjoy your colums very much but don't agree with your take on Mr. Stack's pharmacist clients. They were labelled by memebers of tehir own profession and the police made questionalbe remarks,in my opinion. My biggest concern was the comments that came from the head of the school of Pharmacy and the clear insinuations of guilt. These men may very well be guilty but it is incumbent on such organizations to display impartiality until such allegations are proven in a court of law.

  • james barrett
    February 05, 2011 - 17:12

    good job ,stack would fit right in over in egypt, its called freedom of the press to report all sides pro and con...

  • frank
    February 05, 2011 - 07:55

    Isn't that a fundamental premise of the legal system - "Innocent until proven guilty". The burden should be on the government , its agents, or benefactors of a guilty conviction and not the individual. Otherwise its a slow road to tyranny.