Wednesday 21 August 2019

Newspaper and editor fined over contempt of court

Sebastian Hamilton, editor of the Irish Daily Mail, leaving court yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts
Sebastian Hamilton, editor of the Irish Daily Mail, leaving court yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts
Eimear Cotter

Eimear Cotter

A newspaper editor has been found guilty of contempt of court and fined €4,500 over the publication of an article on the trial of two boys for the murder of Ana Kriegel.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott also fined the publisher of the 'Irish Daily Mail', Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd, €25,000 after the company admitted to contempt of court.

The article was published in the 'Irish Daily Mail' on May 3, 2019 with the headline "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.

The publication of the article led to a brief reporting ban on the entire trial, which Judge McDermott ordered should continue in the case of 'Irish Daily Mail'.

The DPP then issued contempt of court proceedings against court reporter Helen Bruce, editor of the IDM Sebastian Hamilton and the publisher, Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd.

Last Thursday, Brendan Grehan SC, for the DPP, said proceedings against Ms Bruce had been dropped, and she was "entirely blameless".

Eoin McCullough SC said Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd accepted its guilt which was "a corporate mistake".

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

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

Mr McCullough said that when the Kriegel trial began, Mr Hamilton had ordered that any edited copy would be returned to the reporter for verification. However, this had not happened.

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

In his ruling yesterday, Judge McDermott said it was unfortunate Ms Bruce's "accurate copy" was "altered and embellished", and that she was not given an opportunity to re-read the altered copy. He said she bears no responsibility for what happened.

He said the published article was not a fair or accurate depiction of what happened in court.

He also said the headline gave rise to a "real potential" to put more pressure on the two accused, by presenting an adverse view of Boy B's case.

The judge said he was satisfied that Mr Hamilton as the editor bore responsibility for the publication of the article, and as a result contempt of court had been committed by him.

Judge McDermott said he accepted that what had happened was not a deliberate act taken to interfere with the trial proceedings.

However, he said the article posed a real risk to the administration of justice.

Judge McDermott said the parties had apologised for what had happened and expressed their regret.

He fined Mr Hamilton €4,500 and imposed a fine of €25,000 on the publisher.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News