Police have launched an investigation after The Sun published a report of court proceedings which a judge has suggested was both prejudicial and breached statutory reporting restrictions.
The report, which appeared in the newspaper on 11 September, covered the appearance in a magistrates' court of 27-year-old Andrew Partington, who is accused of the manslaughter of two-year-old Jamie Heaton, who died as he sat at home watching television when a gas blast damaged a number of houses at Shaw, Oldham, on 26 June.
When Partington, who is also charged with causing criminal damage amounting to £1.2 million, appeared before Old magistrates on 10 September his case was transferred to Manchester Crown Court.
The Recorder of Manchester, Judge Andrew Gilbart QC, said in a statement on 14 September that he had no doubt that the content and tone of the report created a substantial risk of prejudice to the administration of justice, and also suggested that the report – he did not name the newspaper – breached reporting restrictions covering early appearances in magistrates' courts.
He also made an order under section 4.2 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 postponing the publication of any reports of any further hearings in the case until the conclusion of the trial, or further order, but
added: "I make it plain that the order excludes from its restrictions the reporting of proceedings taking place before the jury at the trial."
The Attorney General's office and the Crown prosecution Service were both aware of what had happened, he said.
A Greater Manchester Police spokesman the force was investigating a potential breach of Section 52A of the Crime and Disorder Act (1998) in relation to the article, and added: "Inquiries are continuing."
A spokesman for the Attorney General's office said it had been made aware of the judge's ruling.
Any alleged breach of reporting restrictions would be investigated by police, who would report to the CPS, which would decide whether there was sufficient evidence before referring the case to the Attorney General for a decision on whether a prosecution should go ahead, he said.