Before passing sentence in the hacking trial, Mr Justice Saunders passed severely adverse comment on the behaviour of those in charge at the now-defunct Screws when Milly Dowler went missing. They had, he concluded, acted not in the interests of the Dowler family, but in their own narrow interests, which meant, more or less, that their actions were geared towards selling more newspapers.
In other words, the public interest defence was being used as a fig-leaf to cover for whatever behaviour the papers would like to get up to. And this takes us to the Mallorcan resort of Magaluf, otherwise known as Megaruf, or even Shagaluf. For those wanting a restful holiday, Magaluf is a Mediterranean version of Siberia: everyone knows where it is, but nobody wants to go there.
And for those who look for excess of, well, just about everything, Magaluf is the place to be. Drunkenness and sexual intimacy among those in the resort surprise nobody – or rather, they didn’t, until the Sun and Daily Star found themselves in need of a quick Shock Horror sales boost. One story of a young woman letting herself go was all it needed: all then piled in.
“Binge-drink Brits sink to new low as girl performs 24 sex acts for £4 cocktail ... MAGALEWD” thundered the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, not masking the identity of the young woman concerned very well, and perhaps not by accident. As a result, her identity was revealed and her social media accounts were subsequently closed down following a shed load of abuse.
Then along came the Daily Star, with “24 Sex Acts For One Free Drink ... Brit teen’s holiday shame”. Yes, this was clearly A Very Bad Thing, but leering after women was not, as a look at the left side of the page showed a scantily clad Victoria Pendleton with the caption “Phwoar de France”. This was noted by Holly Baxter at the Guardian: the tabloids were attempting to “police women’s sexuality”.
And, as if to prove her right, back came the Daily Star, with “Magaluf: Shock New Sex Tape ... Brits’ full-on filth in front of clubbers”. Sex is “filth”? Well, the Star thought it was, going into more detail that we need to here. And, again, the young woman concerned is not exactly anonymised. So the window is left open for the Mail to wade in and get righteous on all concerned (see HERE, HERE and HERE).
So the red-tops sell a few more papers, and the Mail frightens its readers against all those “out-of-control” youngsters. But, for one young woman, it is a truly frightening experience as she is splashed all over the tabloids in a blatant act of exploitation. All of which takes us back to the hacking trial: there was no public interest in this story. It was all about selling papers, and stuff anyone else’s feelings.
This was not the tabloids’ finest hour. And what’s worse, they don’t care.