By Roger Pearson
The author of The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, may have emerged winner in the epic High Court battle in which he was accused of plagiarism in respect of his multi-million best-seller.
But as far as the media was concerned, the hands-down winner was The Lawyer magazine, which had the verdict on the case up on its website a full hour before the judge delivered it in the High Court.
The world’s media had covered the case and assembled in near unprecedented numbers for Mr Justice Peter Smith to give his judgment on Friday afternoon.
However, it then emerged that the judge’s decision had been "leaked" and had been on The Lawyer’s website long before he announced it in public.
The judge prefaced his judgment by saying that he had drawn to the attention of lawyers the need for the result to be kept under wraps until he delivered it in court.
However, he continued: "Despite what I said when I reserved judgment it has transpired The Lawyer has for over an hour had the result of this judgment on its website."
He indicated that the matter would be raised again at a later stage.
The Lawyer leads pack as it breaks Da Vinci Code verdict The story, claimed as "a worldwide exclusive", was later dropped from The Lawyer’s website on Friday.
The Lawyer refused to comment.
From the point of view of a media operation, however, the judge and the court administrators this time deserve praise.
The judge read out a concise summary of his decision in court and copies of the judgment and summary were then made available.
However, before the copies on paper were available, the court administrators had the judgment on the Court Services website in record time.
A court insider said: "There was criticism of the way seating arrangements were handled during the court hearing, but few in the media could criticise the way the judgment was handled, apart from the fact it was leaked an hour beforehand. But that was no fault of the judge or the court administration."