C was the Attorney General, D1 was Associated Newspapers Ltd and D2 was MGN Ltd. C’s prosecution of the Ds followed the trial of Levi Bellfield (B), beginning in May 2011. B was charged with the attempted kidnap of Rachel Cowles, and the kidnap and murder of Milly Dowler. At 2:30 pm on Thursday 23 June 2011, the jury convicted B of the kidnap and murder of Milly Dowler, but they continued their deliberations in relation to the kidnap of Rachel Cowles.
The Milly Dowler conviction was extensively reported on the main TV news channels during the afternoon and evening of 23 June. The CPS emailed media organisations to remind them that proceedings were still active, and that they should not publish material which might prejudice the jury in its deliberations.
On the following morning, 24 June, all national newspapers carried reports of the convictions and of the background to B’s offending. D1 and D2 carried articles with information that had not been put before the jury, some of which had been broadcast on TV the previous evening.
On the same morning counsel for B applied to discharge the jury from giving a verdict on the attempted kidnap of Rachel Cowles because of the “avalanche of publicity adverse to the defendant” which featured material not before the jury at trial. The submission was that the jury could have avoided neither the material, nor being affected by it. The J discharged the jury, referring to the hugely prejudicial nature of the allegations made against B, adding that it was unrealistic and hopeless for the jury to try to put the material out of its mind.
The correct approach to be taken to s.2(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 was common ground between the parties