The Daily Telegraph are feeding off the grief of a family and trying to undermine the justice system in New South Wales as they peddle their latest outrage of the week. The decision by the NSW Parole Authority to release one of the men who was convicted of the murder of high profile heart surgeon Dr Victor Chang has given the Tele the chance to spout righteous indignation and call for the judgement of their staff and readers to trump that of the professionals who work in the justice system.

The Daily Telegraph's anti-parole petition

There are few crimes considered more heinous than murder, and the murder of heart surgeon Victor Chang was one that was deeply felt by the community. Throughout New South Wales people had stories of how a family member, a friend, or they themselves had been helped by a man who was regarded as not only a talented surgeon, but as one whose genuine concern for his patients almost seemed to will people to recovery.

There is no way that the incarceration of Victor Chang’s murderers could fully compensate our community, let alone his family, for his death, however we do have in place a justice system which is tasked with punishing people convicted of crimes against individuals and the community at large. It was this justice system that decided that Phillip Choon Tee Lim should serve at least 18 years in prison, up to a maximum of 24 years. It is this same justice system that has decided that, having served 18 years of his sentence, Lim should no longer be held in prison.

But The Daily Telegraph has decided that it knows better.

Dr Victor Chang’s killer must be kept in jail

.. more than 1300 people who have signed an online petition calling on the NSW Parole Board to review its decision to release him on November 11 – the day his 18-year minimum sentence ends.

As well as the petition, 3000 people have voted in an online poll – 79.64 per cent demanding Lim not be released next month

As seems to be standard operating procedure whenever the Tele or one of the AM radio jocks starts up their outrage machine, NSW politicians are now falling over themselves to be associated with being on the right side of the Tele’s campaign rather than standing up for the people in our justice system who have the difficult and thankless task of dealing with offenders and making the onerous decisions about their punishment, rehabilitation and release.

Not only are the Tele joining the outrage about Lim’s release, they’re now complaining about the rehabilitation programs he completed while in prison.

HE was convicted of one of Australia’s most notorious, and senseless, murders.

But instead of being enrolled in a Corrective Services violent offender program, Dr Victor Chang’s killer attended the jail version of gamblers anonymous.

Complicating this case is the fact that as Lim is not an Australian citizen he will be deported to Malaysia upon release rather than going through the parole system, leading to claims that he has been granted early release from jail.

Campaigns like this one, that use an emotive case as the basis for criticism of our justice system, do our community no favours at all. By undermining people’s faith in the courts and corrective services we are left feeling that we are not being adequately protected, that the system of punishment is insufficient, and that community concerns are not being represented. The fact is that when people are properly informed that’s not the impression that they come away with, but rather than informing their readers the Daily Telegraph is once again simply promoting outrage.

Equally worrying is the fact that The Daily Telegraph’s ability to objectively report on this case has been completely undermined by its decision to become a participant in this issue rather than a reporter. Not unlike Fox News’ decision in the US to help promote and organise the anti-Obama Tea Party rallies, then report on them as legitimate grass roots organisations, the Telegraph is using the front page of its website to promote their petition, which they are then using as proof of community feeling about this issue. This goes beyond the blurring of news and opinion and strays into the manufacturing of news, which undermines people’s trust in the media.

The Daily Telegraph is doing itself, our community, the justice system and the family and friends of Dr Victor Chang a disservice by the way it has chosen to campaign on this issue.

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