Danger of huge fines is greater

Journalists have been warned that, from Monday, the risk of incurring huge fines through their reporting of criminal trials became much greater.

Lawyer Tony Jaffa, from Foot Anstey Sargent, said new rules under the Costs in Criminal Cases Regulations go much further than the existing terms of the Contempt of Court Act 1981. The regulations enable courts to make orders for additional costs incurred by third parties who disrupt trials.

Jaffa said: “If a court considers it appropriate, it can order a third party to pay all costs incurred or wasted, or part of the costs, as a result of their misconduct.”

He said that journalists “could be guilty of a serious mistake even if not guilty of creating a substantial risk of serious impediment or prejudice. The risk of incurring substantial financial penalties just became much greater than ever before.”

The power to make these costs orders lies with magistrates and crown court judges and they can be made in response to complaints from defence or prosecution lawyers.

Jaffa said courts may hear evidence on behalf of newspapers, but are not compelled to do so.

Reports by Dominic Ponsford and Ian reeves

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