Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Sun and Daily Mail in contempt over online gun photos

The Sun and The Daily Mail
Image caption The cases are believed to be the first of their kind relating to the internet

The Sun and The Daily Mail newspapers have been found guilty of contempt of court over internet photos showing a murder trial defendant with a gun.

The cases arose out of the trial in Sheffield in 2009 of Ryan Ward, who was convicted of murdering car mechanic Craig Wass by hitting him with a brick.

Brought by the Attorney General, the cases are believed to be the first of their kind relating to the internet.

It was argued the pictures created "a substantial risk" to the trial.

Judge Michael Murphy QC, who presided at the trial at Sheffield Crown Court, refused to discharge the jury, saying he was "quite satisfied" none had been influenced by material on the internet.

Picture 'a mistake'

Angus McCullough, QC for the Attorney General, had argued publication of the pictures created a substantial risk that the trial could have been "seriously impeded or prejudiced" by jurors seeing them.

He said both newspapers had breached the strict liability rule under the 1981 Contempt of Court Act, which makes it clear publishing an article or picture may be contempt, even though there is no actual "intent" to interfere with the course of justice.

Both newspapers had argued the risk of prejudice was "insubstantial", particularly as the trial judge had repeatedly warned jurors not to consult the internet.

They said use of the picture was "a mistake" which was quickly corrected.

But High Court judges Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Owen, sitting in London, said: "We conclude that the nature of the photograph created a substantial risk of prejudicing any juror who saw that photograph against the defendant Ward."

Giving judgement, Lord Justice Moses said: "Once information is published on the internet, it is difficult if not impossible completely to remove it.

"The courts, while trusting a jury to obey a prohibition on consulting the internet, have been concerned to meet the problem.

"This case demonstrates the need to recognise that instant news requires instant and effective protection for the integrity of a criminal trial."

The judges will consider what penalties and costs to impose on Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail, and News Group Newspapers, publishers of The Sun, at a future date.

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