Wednesday 21 August 2019

Newspaper editor found guilty of contempt, and fined over Ana Kriegel headline

The judge also fined the publisher of the Irish Daily Mail, Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd, €25,000

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 NEWSPAPER editor has been found guilty of contempt of court over the publication of an article on the trial of two boys for the murder of Ana Kriegel.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott fined Sebastian Hamilton, the editor of the Irish Daily Mail, €4,500.

The judge 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 (IDM) 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 was played to the jury.

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

Ana Kriegel
Ana Kriegel

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 Judge McDermott ordered it continue in the case of 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) Ltd.

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

Eoin McCullough SC, on behalf of Associated Newspapers Ltd, 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 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.

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, the lawyer added.

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 this morning, Judge McDermott said it was unfortunate that 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 also said the article was re-written in a highly sensationalist manner.

The judge said he was satisfied, both on previous authorities and on the affidavits, that Mr Hamilton as the editor bears responsibility for the publication of the article, and as a result contempt of court had been committed by him in relation to his role as editor of a newspaper.

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

However, he said he also considered that there was a real risk to the administration of justice in the publication of the article.

In mitigation in determining the penalties, Judge McDermott said the parties had apologised for what had happened and expressed their regret.

He also said the IDM had a responsible history of court reporting and the respondents had no previous convictions for this type of offence.

The judge fined Mr Hamilton, as the editor of IDM, €4,500 and imposed a fine of €25,000 on IDM's publisher Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd.

Two teenagers, known as Boy A and Boy B, were found guilty in June of murdering Ana Kriegel at a derelict farmhouse in Lucan on May 14, 2018.

Boy A was also found guilty of aggravated sexual assault.

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