An apparently draconian court order issued on Monday banned the publication of anything relating to Soham murder suspect Ian Huntley.
The highly unusual order, made under Section 4 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, banned publication of anything about Huntley until after the end of his trial.
But it was universally ignored as the media carried widespread coverage of his suicide attempt.
The order appears to have been put together hastily following news that Huntley had tried to kill himself in the early hours of Monday morning.
The Crown Prosecution Service was concerned that had he died there would have been a free-for-all, with the publication of material which could have prejudiced the trial of co-defendant Maxine Carr.
The order, made by Mr Justice Moses, banned any report “revealing or tending to reveal the detail of evidence against Ian Huntley and/or any other material relating to or about him until such time as proceedings against him and his co-defendant Maxine Carr are concluded”.
It was made at 5pm on Monday by which time news of Huntley’s suicide bid had already been widely reported. The story had also made most national newspaper front pages by Tuesday morning.
An amended order was issued on Tuesday evening from the Old Bailey which clarified the position. But with the recovery of Huntley it was largely overtaken by events.
The section banning the publication of any evidence about Huntley was omitted and instead the order reminds editors that reporting restrictions under the 1981 contempt of court act apply.
It also says: “There should be no report published which speculates upon how or why Ian Huntley came to be in his present condition or to speculate upon what effects, if any, his condition might have upon the future trial of either or both defendants.”
Huntley is due to go on trial on 6 October for the murder of 10-year-old Soham schoolgirls Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells.
By Dominic Ponsford