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Editor meets CPS for clarity on contempt laws

A regional daily editor has held a meeting with officials from the Crown Prosecution Service to discuss his concerns about the ‘mounting confusion’ over contempt of court.

Peter Barron, from The Northern Echo, held the meeting to seek clarity on contempt laws after a recent blog post in which he said he feared local newspapers may be under more pressure than the nationals on the issue.

His original blog came after what he believed was unfair reporting by the national press about the Jo Yeates murder case when landlord Chris Jefferies was arrested then later released without charge.

Peter wrote then: “I have made the wider point to the CPS chiefs that it is increasingly difficult to know where we stand when the nationals get away with publishing more or less what they want.”

His meeting with local CPS officials yesterday also resulted from a judge’s warning about potential contempt at Teesside Crown Court after the Echo named a paedophile who had been locked up for six years.

In a blog about the meeting, Peter wrote: “My view is that we did nothing wrong and that Section 39 orders – meant to protect children victims, not defendants – are being made inappropriately.

“I wanted to see the CPS to make that specific point but to also air my concerns about a lack of clarity on contempt generally.

“With the nationals seemingly allowed to drive a coach and horses through the law in relation to prejudicing trials, editors need to know where they stand.

“The CPS has agreed to try to set up a meeting of editors and court officials to try to find a clearer way forward. I look forward to it.”