GQ guilty of contempt of court over phone-hacking story

Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks Image copyright PA
Image caption Andy Coulson was convicted over phone hacking, while Rebekah Brooks was cleared

The publisher of GQ magazine has been found guilty of contempt of court over its coverage of the News of the World (NoW) phone-hacking trial.

GQ had created a "substantial risk" the trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and others "would be seriously impeded or prejudiced", the High Court ruled.

The court heard a GQ article, published by Conde Naste Publications Ltd, could have suggested to jurors that NoW's owners directed or knew about hacking.

Mrs Brooks was cleared of all charges.

Mr Coulson was convicted of conspiracy to hack phones and was jailed for 18 months.

Lord Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice, said a future hearing would decide on the penalty for Conde Naste.

'Impressionistic sketch'

The GQ article, written by Michael Wolff, appeared in the men's magazine in April 2014, when the Old Bailey trial had been running for more than three months.

The case against Conde Naste was brought by the Attorney General, represented by Andrew Caldecott QC.

"The thrust of the piece was that [Rupert] Murdoch, proprietor of News International, was, or probably was, implicated in voicemail interception and that he should have been prosecuted and in his absence the trial had an air of unreality about it," Mr Caldecott had told the court at a hearing in July.

He said such suggestions had not been made by the prosecution in court.

He also said the article implied defence lawyers had a "hidden agenda" of protecting Mr Murdoch's interests and concealing his involvement.

Adrienne Page QC, representing Conde Naste, said the article was "a highly subjective, personal and impressionistic sketch based upon the experience of visiting the trial courtroom".

But Lord Thomas, sitting with Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, ruled that the article was "seriously prejudicial".

After the ruling, Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC said: "While it is rare to bring proceedings against publishers, the GQ article went against the most fundamental principle of our criminal justice system; namely that everyone is entitled to a fair trial and it is not for the press to decide who is deserving of this protection."

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