Thursday 21 November 2019

Kim Bielenberg: Time to stop the backlash – royal pranksters were foolish but that is all

THE Australian pranksters who were put through to Kate Middleton’s nurse were foolish and insensitive, but it is a stretch too far to blame them directly for the suicide of Jacintha Saldhana.

Mel Greig and Michael Christian have suffered an inevitable backlash after the death of the hospital nurse who put a call through from them at 5.30 in the morning.

The Apprentice host Alan Sugar suggested, via Twitter, that they should be arrested, while the reality show performer Kelly Osbourne called for their imprisonment.

The writer Tony Parson said: “Feeling sorry for "shattered" Mel Greig & Michael Christian like trying to muster pity for a drunk driver who didn't see the zebra crossing.”

These were some of the milder criticisms. Others suggested they had “blood on their hands”, and the pair have suffered an inevitable avalanche of abuse.

The backlash seems to have gone too far.

In hindsight, it is true to say that Greig and Christian went beyond the beyond the bounds of decency with their prank call.

If they had been put through to a servant or a member of the royal family in one of the palaces, it would be hard to object. Ringing up a hospital, where a royal patient is ill – she could have been seriously ill for all they knew – is hardly a suitable subject for merrymaking.

It is fair enough to criticise the pranksters, and their hoax hardly reached Fawlty-esque levels of humour, but they do not deserve the opprobrium heaped on them.

Suicide is a complex business. Who knows what was playing on the mind of Jacintha Saldhana when she took her own life? There could have any number of factors.

If the prank call caused the suicide, it certainly seems like a disproportionate response. But then those with suicidal thoughts do not always think rationally.

Mel Greig and Michael Christian can expect to be the target of more unfair abuse in the coming days.

They were perhaps ill-advised going on television in Australia overnight to pour their heart out about the death of Jacintha Saldhana.

Their tearful performance may be interpreted, rightly or wrongly , as an exercise in self-pity when the real sympathy is due to the family of the nurse herself.

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