Friday 20 April 2018

Contempt case: Go-ahead for kidnap Brits legal bid against Sky News

John Aston

THE Attorney General in Britain has won permission to launch contempt of court proceedings against Sky News for allegedly breaching an injunction taken out to protect the safety of kidnapped British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler.

Sky is accused of breaching an order prohibiting publication of details of the "health and welfare" of the couple as they were in the process of being released by Somali pirates.

They were kept captive for 13 months before being freed in November last year.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC says Sky breached the injunction by broadcasting details about their release before they had left Somalia and reached "a place of safety".

Sky asserts that it "scrupulously observed the terms of the injunction" and "followed the spirit, if not the letter" of the court order.

Lord Justice Moore-Bick, sitting at London's High Court with Mr Justice Bean, said: "We are satisfied this is a proper case for the Attorney General to be allowed to pursue the matter."

Sky was not represented at today's brief hearing.

A full hearing will take place in the near future, at which the Attorney General will ask the High Court to find British Sky Broadcasting Ltd guilty of contempt and impose punishment - most probably a fine.

David Perry QC, appearing for the Attorney General, told the judges the legal action was being brought "in the public interest", and at the request of the Chandlers.

In written submissions before the court, Mr Perry described how the couple, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were captured by Somali pirates in October 2009 and a ransom demand issued.

The QC stated: "The intensive media interest that followed damaged efforts to secure their release."

The Chandler family therefore went to the High Court and were granted an interim injunction by Mr Justice Eady in July 2010 preventing publication or disclosure of any information concerning the health or welfare of the couple until they had reached a place of safety.

The definition of a place of safety "specifically excluded Somalia".

On November 14 2010, the Chandlers were released and taken to Adado, a town in Somalia.

Sky broadcast news of their release at 5.15am that day while they were in Adado, and therefore still in Somalia.

Mr Perry stated that the terms of the injunction were "clear and unambiguous" and the breach was "not accidental or unintentional".

It also appeared that Sky admitted breaching "the letter of the injunction".

Mr Perry said the Chandlers were not in a financial position to be able to bring court proceedings and had requested "that the Attorney General pursue the matter in the public interest".

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