Attorney General to rule on Panter

The Attorney General is to decide whether the Manchester Evening News reporter who named the man suspected of the IRA bombing of the city should face trial for contempt.

At a hearing at Manchester Crown Court last week, Mr Justice Leveson decided he would not deal with the matter himself but would refer the papers to the Attorney General.

During the trial of a police officer thought to have leaked the name of the suspected bomber to the MEN’s Steve Panter, the judge had ordered the reporter to disclose his source for the story.

Panter refused and was declared in contempt of the court by the judge.

The latest legal moves mean he would be a defendant with the right of appeal if he were charged, rather than a witness.

After hearing the news, MEN editor Paul Horrocks told Press Gazette: "We’ll be very disappointed if a prosecution is mounted because we strongly believe it is not in the public interest to pursue this case.

"When you look at the background to this, we have had a prime suspect identified but not arrested; a police officer prosecuted and found to be innocent; and now we’ve got the prospect of a possible contempt action against a journalist. At the end, nobody is going to stand trial at this stage for the bombing."

At a hearing on Friday, the police officer involved, Gordon Mutch, was ordered to pay £10,000 of his own defence costs. Horrocks said the case was reported to have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees.

Thirteen MPs have signed an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons supporting journalists who refuse to disclose sources of information and regretting that they may face contempt proceedings as a result.

They want a clarification of Section 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights about protection of journalists’ sources.

By Jean Morgan

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