Saturday 3 December 2016

No intention to interfere with justice in Irish Independent contempt case

Tim Healy

Published 20/05/2015 | 02:30

A high court judge has ruled the Irish Independent was in contempt of court
A high court judge has ruled the Irish Independent was in contempt of court

A high court judge has accepted that there was no evidence of intention on the part of the Irish Independent to interfere with the course of justice after ruling the paper was in contempt of court.

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Ms Justice O'Malley said Independent Newspapers had "gratuitously identified" an accused person in part of its coverage of the Anglo Tapes.

However, she added that there was no evidence of intention on the part of the Irish Independent or editor-in-chief Stephen Rae to interfere with the course of justice - although there is no requirement in law to prove intent for the offence of contempt of court.

She made the comments in the summary and conclusions of her judgment in which she found the paper was in contempt because the tapes were published after an accused person had been charged and returned for trial.

Only the summary and conclusions, along with the fact that the DPP had sought a contempt of court order, can be published until further order.

The judge gave her decision that the paper was in contempt last month but adjourned to allow lawyers to make submissions in relation to her order that only her summary and conclusions could be published.

Yesterday Paul O'Higgins SC, for the DPP, said his side had no difficulty with her ruling that only the summary and conclusions should be published pending further order.

Brian O'Moore SC, for the Irish Independent, said his side also had no objection. In the section which can be published, the judge said the publication at issue "gratuitously identified and associated the accused person with particular types of behaviour relevant to the charges to be considered by the jury".

She did not accept the paper's argument that lapse of time between publication and the trial meant there was no risk to the fairness of the accused's trial.

While the authorities on the relevancy of lapse of time are clear, they have no bearing on the question of contempt, she said. The relevant date here was the date of the charge, and the publication here occurred after the charges were brought.

The DPP had claimed the publication of material on the Anglo Tapes was calculated to interfere with the criminal trial process in relation to events at the former Anglo Irish Bank.

The claims were denied, but it was agreed to remove extracts of the tapes from the website without prejudice to the newspaper's position in relation to the case taken by the DPP.

Irish Independent

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