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Journalist thwarts bid for blanket ban on trial reports

The trial of a former football club owner can be reported in full thanks to a weekly newspaper reporter.

Lawyers acting for Mazhar Majeed, who used to own Croydon Athletic FC, applied for reporting restrictions on his forthcoming trial for tax evasion at Croydon Crown Court.

The club had recently gone bust having been fined by the FA for misconduct during Mr Majeed’s time in charge.

His team argued that press cuttings of the club’s demise would lead a jury to form a negative opinion of the defendant before and during a trial, and thus a blanket ban on any reports on the trial was needed.

But Croydon Guardian reporter Peter Truman objected the application, arguing that any reporting of the trial would be subject to the ordinary constraints of the Contempt of Court Act.

He added the downfall of the club was a matter of fact and would not affect the outcome of the trial, and that the judge would direct any jury to ignore press reports during the course of it.

Judge Ruth Downing agreed and said she could not deprive the citizens of the country the chance to see justice being done.

She said: “I am not convinced at all by the argument that reporting matters that refer to the defendant’s involvement with the club is going to raise issues of such prejudice that not only do members of the jury have to be protected from reading it but also citizens of the country have to be prevented from details of the trial as it goes on.”

The application was overturned and details of the trial, set for July, can now be reported fully.

Assistant editor Matthew Knowles said:  “It’s another good example of reporters preventing overzealous lawyers from stopping us covering court cases as they happen.

“As the judge points out he will direct the jury to ignore previous articles regarding the case. Reporters need to be aware of court reporting restrictions more than ever to make challenges on these all too common requests for court orders.”