Monday 19 August 2019

Judge to rule if newspaper's editor is guilty of contempt of court over Ana Kriegel trial article

Company apology: ‘Irish Daily Mail’ group editor Sebastian Hamilton leaves court.
Photo: Collins
Company apology: ‘Irish Daily Mail’ group editor Sebastian Hamilton leaves court. Photo: Collins
Eimear Cotter

Eimear Cotter

A judge will rule on Monday whether a newspaper editor should be held in contempt over the publication of an article on the trial of two boys for the murder of Ana Kriegel.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott will also decide on the penalty to be imposed on the publisher of the 'Irish Daily Mail', Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, after the company admitted to contempt of court.

The article was published in the 'Irish Daily Mail' on May 3 with the headline, in quotes, "CCTV shows Ana being led to her death".

It appeared over a report of the previous day's evidence when clips of CCTV footage showing Boy A, Boy B and Ana were played to the jury.

At the time, it was the jury's function to decide what the CCTV showed.

The publication of the article led to a brief reporting ban on the entire trial. The ban was reversed on the same day but Judge McDermott ordered it continue in the case of the 'Irish Daily Mail' (IDM).

The DPP was then granted leave to issue contempt of court proceedings against court reporter Helen Bruce, editor of the 'Irish Daily Mail', Sebastian Hamilton, and the publisher, Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited.

Yesterday, Brendan Grehan SC, for the DPP, said proceedings against Ms Bruce had been dropped, saying she was "entirely blameless" and had shown "nothing but professionalism".

The matter arose, he said, because changes were made to her copy and she was not consulted.

Eoin McCullough SC, on behalf of Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, said the publisher accepted its guilt and wished to apologise to the court. He said this was "a corporate mistake".

However, Mr McCullough said Mr Hamilton, the editor, had gone home before the copy was rewritten and was not guilty of contempt.

Addressing the court, Paul Henderson, CEO of IDM, said the company was "truly sorry" for what had happened.

Mr Henderson said some of the newspaper's processes had broken down and steps had been taken to ensure it didn't happen again.

The court heard the mistake arose out of a "misdescription" in a news list which was never corrected and the story had not gone back to the reporter.

In relation to Mr Hamilton, Mr McCullough said he had attended the evening news meeting at 5.14pm and had gone home before the first re-write of Ms Bruce's copy.

When the Kriegel trial began, Mr Hamilton had ordered that any edited copy would be returned to the reporter prior to publication for verification.

However, this had not happened, Mr McCullough said. If Mr Hamilton's instructions had been followed, this matter would have been avoided, he added.

In response, Mr Grehan, for the DPP, said being an editor "must mean something" and the "buck must stop with a person".

Irish Independent

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