‘Alleged’ transgressions

David Malacari from Down Under avers:

ABC Radio (www.abc.net.au) is particularly bad at overuse of the word ‘alleged‘. I hear it all the time and it drives me to distraction. While you could probably argue that the usage is technically correct its superfluity, in most cases, is maddening. For instance:

Nuttall, Talbot granted adjournment in alleged corruption case

… surely it is a corruption case or it isn’t a corruption case. The allegation would be that Nuttall and Talbot acted corruptly. There is nothing alleged about the case itself.

Driver contacts police after alleged hit-and-run

A driver has handed himself in to police after allegedly hitting a male pedestrian before fleeing in Adelaide’s north east this afternoon. The crash happened in Redwood Park just before 4:00pm. The car was found abandoned in a nearby street soon after. The teenage pedestrian has been taken to hospital with leg injuries.

I would concede the use of ‘allegedly’ in the body, but not in the title. Technically any crime or misdemeanor is only alleged until the moment of conviction, however in practical terms we would normally accept that a crime has been committed and that the allegation refers to suspect’s role. In other words either it was a hit and run or it wasn’t. The allegation is that it was committed by person A, not that it happened.

These are only a couple of examples I found just now on the ABC web site. I am driven mad with newsreaders saying that someone was charged with allegedly doing something. The ABC is rife with allegations!

5 thoughts on “‘Alleged’ transgressions

  1. This one annoys me greatly. There is a legal reason to use the word, but journalists misuse it all the time.

    I hate the phrase “alleged suspect.” The person may be an alleged bank robber, but if he is in police custody, he is a real suspect. Otherwise the police would not have arrested him.

  2. Yes, it’s true, in Australia we have very strict defamation laws and it is necessary to use “alleged” and “suspect” repeatedly. It is a legal precaution – both journalists and TV programs who haven’t been careful have been sued, and because the ABC is publicly funded they cannot afford to make this mistake. Even with the “alleged corruption case” the media company dare not take the risk, and as someone who works in the media I don’t allow myself to become annoyed by the overuse of these terms any more, as I understand the serious implications of even a slight mistake.

  3. Use of the word alleged does not save anybody in NSW Australia under laws. The copy should be clearly written to indicate who is making the allegation. For that reason I routinely edit the word alleged out and replace with police told teh court ot police said an other such phrases.

  4. I’m annoyed by it, too.

    JustBekky, we understand why journalists must use it, but they should use it correctly.

    For example, if a bank has been robbed, the police are looking for the robber. They are not looking for an alleged robber. It would be stupid for them to do so, in fact. If the money is gone, and all the witnesses saw a masked gunman take it, then there was not an alleged robbery, it was an actual roberry.

    Once they catch somebody, you should say that John Smith, or whomever, is the alleged robber, since he is suspected of committing the robbery.

  5. It’s tricky. “Alleged bank robbery” is silly, but “alleged rape” is necessary, since it is often the case that A having sex with B is common ground, and the allegation is that the sex was not consensual. Same story with “alleged murder” (it might be manslaughter or self-defense) or “alleged fraud”.

    Perhaps it’s simply time to stop writing crime stories, which most of the time are nothing more than lurid entertainments. Who gives a red rubber rat’s ass about who did what to whom, unless there is a genuine matter of public concern?