Thursday 22 August 2019

Judge to rule Monday whether newspaper editor guilty of contempt over Ana Kriegel story

Daily Mail group editor Sebastian Hamilton appeared in Dublin Central Crininal Court Photo: Collins Courts
Daily Mail group editor Sebastian Hamilton appeared in Dublin Central Crininal Court Photo: Collins Courts
Eimear Cotter

Eimear Cotter

A JUDGE will rule on Monday if the editor of a newspaper is guilty of contempt of court over the publication of a front page story on the Ana Kriegel murder trial.

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

The article was published in the Irish Daily Mail on May 3, 2019, and bore the headline "CCTV shows Ana being led to her death".

It appeared over a report of the previous day's evidence when CCTV footage was played to the jury showing the two defendants, known as Boy A and Boy B, and 14-year-old Ana in the park on the evening she disappeared.

The publication of the article led to an, albeit brief, reporting ban on the entire trial.

The ban was reversed on the same day it was imposed, but Mr Justice Paul McDermott ordered that the ban continue in the case of the Irish Daily Mail (IDM).

Ana Kriegel
Ana Kriegel

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

This morning, Brendan Grehan SC, for the DPP, said that proceedings against Ms Bruce had been dropped.

Mr Grehan said Ms Bruce was "entirely blameless" in this matter and had shown "nothing but professionalism".

The article indicated that Ms Bruce was its author but it transpired that this was not the case, Mr Grehan said.

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

He also said the company was offering to pay the DPP's costs in this matter.

However, Mr McCullough said that Sebastian Hamilton, the editor, had gone home for the night before the copy was re-written and was not guilty of contempt.

Addressing the court, Paul Henderson, CEO of IDM, said he personally, the company and its staff were really sorry for what had happened, mistakes had been made and they were "truly sorry".

Mr Henderson said that 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 "mis-description" in a news list which was never corrected and that the story had not gone back to the original 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 re-written court copy would be returned to the reporter prior to its 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, the lawyer added.

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

Judge McDermott said he would give his ruling on Monday.

Boy A and Boy B were found guilty last mouth of the murder of Ana Kriegel at an abandoned farmhouse in Lucan on May 14, 2018.

Boy A was also convicted of aggravated sexual assault.

The teenagers, who was just 13 years old at the time, had denied the offences.

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