Attorney General warns journalists against implying guilt of Woolwich terror suspects or revealing past wrongdoing

The Attorney General has warned the media about the contempt of court risks after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich next week.

The warning applies to the two men arrested at the scene of the stabbing, and to others arrested afterwards.

Proceedings are active under the Contempt of Court Act 1981, and the AG Dominic Grieve has particularly warned the media about publishing reports that:

1. Assert or assume the guilt of the people arrested – either expressly or implicitly, or

2. Reveal their previous convictions, or allegations of wrongdoing.

Solicitors Pannone have already discussed the contempt risk posed by mobile phone videos of the stabbings shown on ITN and Sky News.

Contempt warnings have become commonplace since Grieve took over. So have contempt prosecutions. Several national papers have felt his wrath.

Editors should also check website message boards for reader comments that could be in contempt of court.

And web editors should check their boards, and their social media feeds, for reader comments that could breach the Religious Hatred Act by making inflammatory comments about Islam, Muslims etc.

Cleland Thom is a consultant and trainer in media law




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