The Attorney General Dominic Grieve has ruled out contempt of court proceedings against Private Eye over its controversial front cover featuring Rebekah Brooks despite police attempts to stop its sale.
The ‘Halloween Special’ edition features a file photograph of Brooks leaving the Royal Courts of Justice above the headline “horror witch costume withdrawn from shops”.
Private Eye front cover has been brought to our attention, but AG has decided proceedings for a potential contempt of court aren't required
— Attorney General (@AGO_UK) October 29, 2013
Trial judge Justice Saunders raised a copy of magazine and showed it to the jury yesterday.
He warned: "Unfortunately Private Eye has seen fit today to put out their November edition. You will undoubtedly see it on the newstands, so I can show it to you.
"It bears a picture of Rebekah Brooks on the cover. It's meant to be satire. You ignore it. It has no serious input and it is not relevant to your considerations.
"It is one of those things that you will have to ignore – a joke which in the circumstances of today is a joke in especially bad taste."
The judge’s warning prompted officers from the Metropolitan Police to approach newspaper vendors in the vicinity of the Old Bailey and ask them to remove the magazine as it may be “contempt of court”.
— Matthew Champion (@mchampionmetro) October 29, 2013
However, the Attorney General did not issue any direction to the Metropolitan Police to start removing copies of the magazine.
The Crown Prosecution Service also confirmed it did not direct the police to act on the issue.
Newsagent closest to Old Bailey (Fleet Place) tells me he has never sold so many copies of Private Eye. He has one left. #HackingTrial
— David (@JackofKent) October 30, 2013
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told Press Gazette: “MPS officers in conjunction with other parties within the trial made enquiries with a vendor about the latest Private Eye publication to assist the court. They advised the vendor that the publication may be in contempt of court.“
The vendor, who has a stall outside Farringdon Station,reportedly told the officers that he would only act if they were in a position to produce a court order.
He was praised by leading media lawyer Mark Stephens
— Mark Stephens (@MarksLarks) October 30, 2013