Page last updated at 10:49 GMT, Saturday, 2 August 2008 11:49 UK

'Publicity distorted' Dando case

Barry George and psychologist Susan Young
Barry George may seek compensation for spending 8 years in prison

The barrister for Barry George, cleared of killing presenter Jill Dando, has warned that huge publicity can distort investigations into high-profile cases.

William Clegg QC said the media pressure on the authorities to find the perpetrator could affect the police's objectivity.

Mr George, 48, was cleared on Friday of murdering Miss Dando, 37, on the doorstep of her London home in 1999.

The Crown Prosecution Service has said it was right to take the case to court.

The police and those responsible for the prosecution need to keep an open mind as far as possible as to who is responsible
William Clegg QC
Defence barrister

Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "All these cases that attract widespread publicity put huge pressure on the police and the prosecuting authorities to try to find the perpetrator and I sometimes feel that that pressure distorts the objectivity that would otherwise be present, were the publicity to be absent."

Mr Clegg was also involved in the case of Colin Stagg, who was cleared of the 1992 murder of Rachel Nickell.

He said there were lessons to be learned from the Dando case.

"In considering a case of this complexity the police and those responsible for the prosecution need to keep an open mind as far as possible as to who is responsible.... I think they did close their mind after the arrest of Barry George," he said.

'Overwhelmed'

Mr George's psychologist, Dr Susan Young, said on Saturday he was still overwhelmed.

"He still is bewildered and overwhelmed. I mean the past 24 hours have just been so hectic and quite manic. There's hardly been a moment to think really. I mean it's just been a very fast, rapid pace."

Barry George's solicitor reacts to the verdict

Scotland Yard said it was disappointed by the verdict but respected the decision of the court.

"We will be reflecting on today's verdict and considering how best to proceed," said Simon Foy, head of Scotland Yard's homicide and serious crime command.

Mr George's sister Michelle Diskin, who has led the fight for his release, said she was really delighted to finally have justice.

Jacqui Hames, who served in the Metropolitan Police for 25 years and worked alongside Miss Dando on the BBC's Crimewatch programme, said her thoughts were with Miss Dando's family and friends.

"Any result like this is always difficult for family members because it re-opens all the old wounds," she said.

"And that line drawn underneath what happened has now disappeared and there is the prospect of at least a review if not a re-investigation into the case."



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