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Editor meets with 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.”


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  • January 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Well done to Mr Barron and maybe more regional editors should seek this clarification, too. I recently sat, and passed, the NCTJ law exam and most of my classmates were keen to raise the issue of national media coverage of this story with our tutor. We were left scratching our heads as the likes of The Sun and Sky News more or less said what they wanted. I hope Mr Barron gets the answers he, along with many others, deserves.

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  • January 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Some innocent people are suffering at the hands of the arrogant tabloids (and radio stations who just lift stories from them without checking facts) There should be a law banning identification of any suspect unless actually charged and it should carry a massive fine and automatic compensation to the innocent victim. That way all hacks can play by the same rules.

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