Reference:  EWCA Crim 100
Court: Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
Judge: Lord Chief Justice, Eady , Simon JJ
Date of judgment: 25 Jan 2011
Summary: Reporting restrictions - Criminal proceedings - Blanket ban on reporting trial - Contempt of Court Act 1981, s.4(2) - Effect of contemporaneous reporting on witnesses at trial
Appearances: Adam Wolanski KC (Applicant)
Instructing Solicitors: Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for the Applicants
MGN Limited and others applied for leave to appeal against an order under section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 postponing all reporting of three consecutive murder trials concerning an alleged murder at Victoria Station. The order had been made (a) in order to protect young witnesses who may encounter hostility when they gave evidence; (b) because of the risk that witnesses in trials two and three would alter their evidence if their evidence from the first trial were reported.
Whether a blanket postponement order was necessary
Granting leave, allowing the appeal and remitting the matter to the trial judge for further consideration of what orders may be necessary:
(1) A blanket prohibition on reporting was not necessary. Such a ban would not alleviate the problems that may be faced by witnesses in this case.
(2) The use of section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 in order to alleviate the problems of giving evidence, even if evidence was to be given at more than one trial, was rarely appropriate.
A reminder by the Court of Appeal of the need for judges to examine closely whether an order under section 4(2) postponing reporting is necessary: if, as in this case, the risk to a fair trial arises from factors other than contemporaneous fair and accurate reporting, such an order is very unlikely to be appropriate.