FixedIt: What did the court hear?

ABC News recently published a report of a murder trial in Sydney.

Kulwinder Singh, 41, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Parwinder Kaur in December 2013 at their home in Rouse Hill. He claims she set herself on fire and he is not responsible for her death.

To be clear, the trial is still ongoing and Singh is entitled to the presumption of innocence. This commentary is not about his guilty or innocence, which can only be determined by the court. This post is solely about the way the trial was reported in the media.

Why was this single sentence from testimony of the neighbour who tried to help Parwinder Kaur presented as the headline? There were any number of alternatives for the headline, including (but not limited to) the one I suggested. The one chosen by the ABC is misleading both to Singh’s guilt or innocence. If he is innocent it’s misleading because it implies he’s guilty and is making an excuse for something he did do. If he’s guilty it implies there IS an excuse for what he did.

According to the article, the court heard evidence from a neighbour who witnessed the woman being on fire and attempted to assist her. The court has also been presented with forensic evidence and photos of the crime scene.

The article also states that “The court has heard the incident took place in the context of an abusive, controlling relationship and Ms Kaur had made plans to leave the marriage.” It’s not clear who made this assertion or what corroborating evidence was presented.

Court reporting is not an easy job. Distilling complex testimony and hours of legal processes or detailed cross examination into a readable 800 words is extremely difficult. The article itself is a good account of what was possibly several days of complicated evidence.

The headline, however, perpetuates the myth that men kill women because of something the woman has done rather than a choice made by a man who decides to kill a woman. Obviously this has not been proven in this case, but even the implication of it in this headline is dangerous because it adds to public perception that this myth is true. Women are never to blame for violence men choose to inflict upon them and it is very much against the public interest to suggest otherwise.

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