Ban on murder trial reports 'a mistake'

Pike: “no strong risk of prejudice”

A blanket order banning reporting of the trial of a man charged with murdering a policeman has been lifted after media organisations joined forces to oppose it.

Mr Justice Henriques made the order in April covering the trial of Nathan Coleman (aka David Bieber) who was arrested on 31 December and charged with the murder of a policeman. PC Ian Broadhurst was shot dead in Leeds on Boxing Day by a man sitting in the back of his police car who had been arrested on suspicion of car theft.

It is believed that Judge Henriques made the order due to concerns about the reporting of Coleman’s previous activities after his initial arrest.

It was made under Section Four of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and prevented publication of any details of Coleman’s trial.

Julian Pike, from Farrer & Co, travelled to Newcastle Crown Court on Monday to contest the order on behalf of News International, MGN, Express Newspapers, Associated Newspapers, ITN, The Guardian and The Independent newspapers.

He said: “When I spoke to the judge’s clerk on Friday morning I was told that the intention was the order would remain in place for the duration of the trial.

“When we got to the court on Monday morning, we were told it had all been a mistake and there was an administrative error. It is unfortunate that we weren’t told that earlier on.

“I would have argued that the Section Four order was wrong because there was no substantial risk of prejudice in reporting what had happened the day before in court.

There are delaying powers where there might be prejudice to a subsequent trial or trials – but this did not appear to be the case here.”

The Queen’s Bench Division Court ruled in 1992 than any court had discretionary powers to hear representations from the press when it was considering continuing a Section Four order.

A separate order banning the publication of Coleman’s photograph, or making reference to his hair colour, will remain in place until witnesses who are likely to make statements regarding the defendant’s identity have done so. The trial is due to start on 16 November.

By Dominic Ponsford

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