GQ fined £10k for publishing 'improper attack' on Rebekah Brooks during hacking trial

A magazine publisher has been fined £10,000 after being found to be in contempt of court as a result of the way a high-profile criminal trial was covered.

GQ magazine had published an "observational piece" headed "The Court Without A King" in April 2014 when senior figures in the newspaper world were on trial at the Old Bailey in the wake of phone-hacking allegations, judges had heard.

Conde Nast Publications had been found to be in contempt in November 2015, following a hearing at the High Court in London, and two judges imposed a fine on Thursday.

Attorney General Jeremy Wright launched the contempt proceedings.

Lord Thomas, who is the Lord Chief Justice and the most senior judge in England and Wales, and Mrs Justice Nicola Davies were told that former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson had been on trial for more than three months when the article, by Michael Wolff, was published.

The two judges concluded that the article created a "substantial risk" that the trial would be "seriously impeded or prejudiced".

Lord Thomas said the article implied that "Mrs Brooks was a disreputable woman", and was an "improper attack" on a defendant during the course of a trial.

Lawyers representing Conde Nast argued that the article had not created a substantial risk of serious prejudice.

And barrister Adam Wolanski outlined a number of mitigating factors – at a follow-up hearing in the High Court in London on Thursday – which, he said, judges should take into account before deciding what penalty to impose.

He said editors were "paranoid" about being in contempt and had taken advice from a barrister specialising in media issues before publishing.

Nearly 100,000 copies of the edition were withdrawn from sale and destroyed after concerns were raised.

He said the trial had continued, no-one had suggested that jurors should be discharged and the "consequences for the administration of justice" had not been serious.

Bosses apologised and the publisher agreed to pay the Attorney General's legal costs – which totalled nearly £50,000.

Lord Thomas said those factors had been taken into account before the size of the fine was decided.

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