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Latest from the courts...

Nick Robinson | 16:58 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2007

What was I saying before I was so rudely interrupted...

Yates of the Yard has just walked in to Court 37 of the Royal Courts of Justice. He's there because the BBC is back in court facing lawyers from the Attorney General's Office. The day after the injunction against the BBC was lifted, our lawyers are arguing that the reasons why the injunction was sought and granted should now be made public.

I am not in court today. Indeed reporters and the public were thrown out after the first few minutes of the hearing so that the arguments could be heard in private.

When the injunction was secured the Attorney's lawyers had to present the Metropolitan Police argument that our broadcast would undermine their investigation. Whilst our lawyer heard those arguments he was permitted only to tell a handful of the most senior executives at the BBC, who were themselves barred from telling those of us working on the story.

At the beginning of today's hearing the BBC's lawyer Manuel Barca said that the issue had "generated acute public concern," and that there was, "no justification for putting 'on ice' the reporting of the reasons for an injunction which has now been lifted." He went on to say that the Attorney was "trying to put off the inevitable," and that it "smacks of a delaying tactic."

In response Philip Havers, the solicitor for the Attorney General said, "it is vital for reasons I won't go in to, that both sides are clear what can and cannot be reported about Friday's hearing." Amusingly, he argued that the case should be postponed and heard by Justice Wilkie - who granted the original injunction - and not by Mrs Justice Swift, who lifted it and refused the application to injunct the Guardian.

I can only assume that Assistant Commissioner Yates has been summoned to explain to the judge why he feels that certain information should remain secret...

UPDATE 17:30: It's just been announced that the verdict will not be announced until tomorrow.


PS: Forgive the recent break in normal service. The past couple of days have been so frantic and relentless that I never quite made it to the keyboard to blog. Never before have I spent so much time talking to lawyers - more, I suspect, than is really healthy for a journalist.

I'm well aware, by the way, that the drama of fighting in the courts for the right to tell your story is the stuff of story books for many journalists and a bit of a yawn for everyone else.

I've no doubt that many people will wonder why I thought it worth while spending virtually every waking hour since Thursday first writing and then re-writing scripts after endless meetings with lawyers and BBC executives. Others will question the rightness of our reporting on an ongoing police investigation.

I will return to these topics in the next day or two. In the meantime, for those interested in this debate, can I recommend listening to my boss's interview on Radio 4's Today programme this morning (click here) and the Attorney General's on the World at One (click here).


  • 1.
  • At 06:06 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Jeremy Fagan wrote:

Nothing to do with the story, but why 'Justice Wilkie' and 'Mrs Justice Swift'? Surely they should both have Mr and Mrs, or neither? Does their gender affect this case? Is the assumption that judges are male, and the ones that aren't need pointing out?

  • 2.
  • At 06:40 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:

People have their reasons for wanting to publish, make legal representations, and stay quiet. Myself, I think, everyone is getting steamed up over very little, and a period of calm in this affair wouldn’t go amiss. If nothing else, it would give journalists, politicians, and public an opportunity to take stock of what’s really important.

Take your time, Nick. No rush...

  • 3.
  • At 07:01 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Nick Tye wrote:

I do not doubt that the Attorney General is a distinguished lawyer. However, his post has been completely undermined by the Iraq War, the BAE enquiry and now the honours issue. Just as the post of Lord Chancellor was radically reformed, I do not think the position of Attorney General can be a political appointment anymore. No one takes him seriously when he states that he acts in the 'public interest' because we all know he is an ally of the Prime Minister. Therfore, however important his role might be it muct be reformed so that the Attorney General is no longer so closely connected with the Government.

  • 4.
  • At 07:42 AM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Al Weir wrote:

To Jeremy, male High Court judges are always titled Mr Justice So-and-so. This isn't just for women. Unless they have a title (sir/lord/lady/dame) in which case that is used. As to why NR called the judge simply Justice Wilkie, you'll have to ask him. He will be named as Mr Justice Wilkie on the court lists.

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