Reference:  EWCA Crim 2692;  EMLR 145;  HRLR 1;  UKHRR 577; The Times, 6 November 2006
Court: Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
Judge: Judge LJ, Penry Davey J, Mackay J
Date of judgment: 27 Oct 2006
Summary: Reporting restrictions - Postponement of reporting - s.4(2), Contempt of Court Act 1981 - Risk of substantial prejudice - Right to fair trial - Art 6, ECHR - Right to freedom of expression - Art 10, ECHR
Instructing Solicitors: BBC Programme Legal Advice department and Finers Stephens Innocent for the appellants; Arani & Co and Birnberg Pierce for the respondents
On 12 October 2006 an order was made postponing the reporting of the sentencing of Dhiren Barot on his plea of guilty to conspiracy to murder, until the conclusion of the trial of his co-defendants. The court ordered Barot be sentenced as soon as possible. The judge was concerned that reports of Barot’s sentencing would cause a risk of substantial prejudice to the trial of the co-defendants, as his reasons for sentence would give rise to a great deal of legitimate public interest and discussion. A coalition of media organisations appealed.
Whether media reports of Barot’s sentencing would create a risk of substantial prejudice to the fair trials of his remaining co-defendants if they were not postponed until after trial.
Allowing the appeal:
(i) The media should be trusted to accurately and responsibly inform the public of court proceedings and exercise sensible judgment in relation to the publication of commentary that would prejudice the fairness of any trial. The risk of contempt proceedings ensured editors exercised caution in this regard.
(ii) The integrity of juries remained the bedrock of fair trials. This was the second safeguard. Juries are diligent in following judicial directions to focus on the evidence before them. Following directions also welled from the innate belief of juries that a trial should be fair.
A good win for the media in the Court of Appeal. Hitherto most UK media reporting of terrorism trials has been after proceedings have ended as split trials have predominated. In this instance the Court of Appeal has sent out an affirmation of the safeguards for fair trials that are already in place, namely, editorial responsibility and restraint, the contempt laws and the resilience and intrinsic sense of fairness of properly guided juries.