The Sunday Mirror article which led to the collapse of the trial
The Sunday Mirror’s £75,000 contempt fine for the article which led to the collapse of the £1m trial of two Leeds United footballers emphasises the importance of papers coming clean if they know they are in the wrong.
The "responsible attitude" of the paper’s publisher, MGN, towards what happened was a major deciding factor in keeping the fine lower than many had anticipated.
Two things were made clear by the High Court in setting the fine. The company’s previous good record and the fact it had admitted it was in the wrong went a long way to keeping the level of the fine down.
Lord Justice Kennedy said that the material complained of satisfied the contempt test that there had been a substantial interference with the course of justice. But, during his judgment, he made it clear that MGN was not prone to contempt proceedings.
The judge said MGN has a good record in relation to contempt of court, and added: "There has been no adverse finding against any of its titles since 1949. It undoubtedly wished to prevent disasters of this kind".
He said the court bore that in mind along with the responsible attitude of the group since the matter came to light.
Although within the range of strict liability contempts the case had to be regarded as towards the top end, he said deterrence was not likely to be a significant factor in relation to a "responsible newspaper with an excellent record" which accepted it had erred.
MGN had accepted liability for what happened and the hearing centred on the penalty that should be imposed.
Jonathan Caplan QC for MGN had told the court that the publisher accepted corporate responsibility for the negligence leading to the publication at the heart of the case.
The group claimed the publication was the result of wrong legal advice and had apologised unreservedly.
Paul Vickers, group legal director of parent company Trinity Mirror, said afterwards: "We consider £75,000, particularly when you take it together with costs, quite a high sum but we accept it is fair and proportionate.
"We are also very pleased that the court did accept the good record of the company and that they have not been found guilty of contempt for over 50 years. We are pleased that was taken into account."