|Crown Court at Manchester in the Rain !|
At Manchester Crown Court, the Recorder (Judge Andrew Gilbart QC) made an order under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 section 4(2). This was in relation to the cases of seven men accused of various murders in the Manchester area including Dale Cregan who is accused of four murders including those of two Police Officers at Hattersley, Greater Manchester on Tuesday 18th September.
The 1981 Act begins by defining the so-called "Strict Liability rule" as "the rule of law whereby conduct may be treated as a contempt of court as tending to interfere with the course of justice in particular legal proceedings regardless of intent to do so." Section 2 of the Act is concerned with limiting the scope of the strict liability rule. Section 3 provides for a defence of innocent publication or distribution.
For the purposes of contempt of court, proceedings are deemed to be "active" from the time of certain "initial steps" such as arrest without warrant - see 1981 Act Schedule 1.
The first two subsections of Section 4 are:
Contemporary reports of proceedings.
(1) Subject to this section a person is not guilty of contempt of court under the strict liability rule in respect of a fair and accurate report of legal proceedings held in public, published contemporaneously and in good faith.
(2) In any such proceedings the court may, where it appears to be necessary for avoiding a substantial risk of prejudice to the administration of justice in those proceedings, or in any other proceedings pending or imminent, order that the publication of any report of the proceedings, or any part of the proceedings, be postponed for such period as the court thinks necessary for that purpose.
Section 4(1) recognises the importance of the media being able to report what is happening in court cases held in public provided they do so in a fair and accurate way. Such reporting is an essential element in open justice. However, adverse publicity could give rise to a breach of the right to a fair trial and might constitute grounds for a stay of proceedings.
An order under section 4(2) will prevent publication of reports about proceedings where the court perceives a risk of substantial prejudice to the administration of justice if such reports were to be published.
It should be noted that there are also various other statutory restrictions on what may be reported - e.g. in cases involving children and young persons etc.
The making of the section 4(2) order is considered by Siobhain Butterworth in The Guardian 24th September - "Judge imposes reporting restrictions in Dale Cregan case". Here is the statement of the Recorder of Manchester which it is permissible to publish: