AG investigates Guardian over reporter's juror tweet

The Attorney General is investigating the case of a Guardian journalist who tweeted the name of a juror during the trial of Tottenham Hotspurs manager Harry Redknapp.

The actions of Guardian sports journalist Jamie Jackson prompted the trial judge, Judge Anthony Leonard QC, to ban the use of Twitter and other “live text” communications at the trial and refer the case to Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC.

The incident, which happened at Southwark Crown Court on January 23, came just over six weeks after the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, issued Practice Guidance to courts saying that journalists and legal commentators would not longer have to make applications for permission to Twitter, text or e-mail from hearings.

But he also warned that permission to use live, text-based communications from court may be withdrawn “at any time” if it appeared to be interfering with the administration of justice.

Judge Leonard banned the use of live text communications at Redknapp’s trial after Jackson tweeted the name of a juror – jurors remain anonymous – and later tweeted information about legal argument which was taking place in the absence of the jury.

Journalists generally do not report discussions which take place in the jury’s absence because of the risk of being found to be in strict liability contempt by having published material which caused a substantial risk of serious prejudice.

A spokesman at the Attorney General’s office confirmed that Grieve was examining the case to see whether a prosecution should be brought.

A defendant convicted of contempt could face an unlimited fine or as much as two years in prison.

Jackson tweeted a juror’s name after the jury for the trial was selected, leading to the individual being discharged and a new juror being sworn in.

Redknapp, the former Portsmouth manager, and Milan Mandaric, the ex-Portsmouth chairman, both deny charges of cheating the public revenue in their time together at that club.

The Guardian declined to comment.

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