Conde Nast fined for contempt

Publisher ordered to pay £10,000 for hacking trial story

Conde Nast has been fined £10,000 for contempt of court in respect of an article published in the April 2014 edition of GQ magazine concerning the phone hacking trial (R v Brooks and Others).

In November 2015, the Administrative Court found the publisher guilty of contempt.

On reconvening to consider penalty, the court (Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd CJ and Nicola Davies J) noted that the contempt was neither intentional nor reckless. The editor had been prepared to wait until the trial was over before publishing. He had relied on legal advice from an experienced lawyer which he had sought specifically in relation to the risk of contempt. Furthermore, after the contempt was drawn to the Defendant’s attention, the publisher withdrew the copies in circulation and destroyed them. The publisher also agreed to pay the Attorney General’s costs in full.

In imposing the fine, which was amongst the lowest in recent years, Lord Thomas observed that fines in other areas of law, such as health and safety and environmental protection, have lately increased substantially. He said that in the future the court might well consider a similar increase in the fines in media contempt cases. He also warned that, in the future, the court might consider naming those who provide pre-publication advice on publications which the court later finds to have been in contempt.

Adam Wolanski of 5RB acted  for the Defendant at the penalties hearing. Adrienne Page QC of 5RB and Adam Wolanski previously acted for the Defendant at the liability hearing.