Whose Christmas is ruined?

News that two completely innocent people have had their lives ruined by the UK’s tabloid press will come as no surprise to those who follow its vicissitudes.

Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk have said today that they are deeply distressed by what they called their “disgusting” treatment in sections of the media, after they were detained in relation to the drone flights that brought Gatwick airport to a standstill last week.

They were released after 36 hours of questioning. Their friends expressed dismay that the couple had been arrested in the first place. Within a few hours of being arrested, their pictures appeared on a number of Sunday newspaper front pages. The Mail on Sunday went furthest with its headline “Are these the morons who ruined Christmas?” Meanwhile television presenter and ex-newspaper editor Piers Morgan had to apologise after describing the pair in a tweet as clowns – a description which he later deleted.

It’s very reminiscent of a case from 2010 when Bristol landlord Christopher Jefferies was arrested on suspicion of murdering his tenant, Joanna Yeates. His character was thoroughly maligned by the press, although he was completely innocent of the crime. Jefferies ended up winning substantial damages. Let’s hope Gait and Kirk also get their day in court.

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