Sky News Somali kidnap couple contempt case dropped

Sky News will not face contempt proceedings over its coverage on the day kidnapped British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler were freed by Somali pirates after the Attorney General Dominic Grieve decided to drop the case.

In November, Grieve sought permission from the High Court to bring contempt proceedings against the broadcaster over allegedly breaching an injunction banning the media from publishing details of the “health and welfare” of the couple while they were still inside Somalia.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said: “The attorney general brought proceedings in his role as guardian of the public interest.

“The attorney general has reconsidered the public interest test in the light of additional relevant information and has concluded that proceedings are no longer required.”

Sky News insisted it had “scrupulously observed the terms of the injunction” and that it had “followed the spirit, if not the letter” of the court order.

The Chandlers were captured when armed raiders boarded their 38-foot yacht, Lynn Rival, as they sailed from the Seychelles to Tanzania in dangerous waters, and then held captive for 13 months.

Their family later went to the High Court because they feared the intensive media scrutiny could compromise efforts to secure their release, and they were granted an interim injunction by Mr Justice Eady in July 2010 preventing the publication of details about the health or welfare of the couple until they had left Somalia.

On 14 November 2010 the Chandlers were released and taken to Adado, a town in Somalia, and Sky broadcast news of their release at 5.15am that day while they were still in the town.

The retired pair, from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, were released after a ransom of up to £1m was paid.

Since Grieve took office in May last year he has brought actions for contempt which saw the Daily Mail and The Sun fined for their use of photographs with website coverage of a murder trial, and the Daily Mirror and Sun fined over their coverage of the arrest of landlord and former teacher Christopher Jefferies – who was subsequently shown to be innocent – by police investigating the murder of landscape architect Joanna Yeates.

He also launched a further action against the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail in relation to coverage of Levi Bellfield’s conviction for the abduction and murder of schoolgirl Milly Dowler which led the trial judge, Mr Justice Wilkie, to discharge the jury from returning a verdict on a charge of the attempted abduction of schoolgirl Rachel Cowles, because of what he said was the prejudicial nature of the material published.

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