Concern for London bomb suspects’ right to a fair trial

Human rights lawyers issue warning to Attorney General.

In the wake of the arrest of four suspects in connection with the failed 21 July London bombings, human rights groups have urged the Attorney General to issue a warning to the media to refrain from publishing articles and headlines that infringe the contempt laws.

Headlines appearing in The Sun, The Express and Voice on the day after the arrests would prejudice the suspects’ right to a fair trial civil libertarians have warned. The phrasing of the headlines insinuated that those held by police were guilty rather than under suspicion.

The director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, said in a letter to Lord Goldsmith: “There was for some time an obvious public interest in the broad publication of the faces and physical descriptions of fugitive suspects. However, once suspects are in custody, it seems to us that the value of such publicity is dislodged by a real danger that the constant association of these faces with commentary relating to criminal charges, or indeed the general terror threat, would help foster an assumption of guilt in the fairest juror.”

The Attorney General, who oversees the contempt laws, is reported to be keeping the media coverage of events under review and is determined to ensure that any trials that arise are fair.