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Ministers drop plan to order removal of online content

Ministers have dropped proposals which would have enabled them to order publishers to take down online content which could be prejudicial to a court case.

The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill currently going through Parliament contained a clause which would have given the Attorney General powers to direct media organisations to remove online media archives in certain circumstances.

Now the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, has agreed to drop the clause following a meeting with the Society of Editors, Newspaper Society and Media Lawyers Association.

The government has agreed to table to amendment to its own Bill to remove the clause.

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the SoE said: “When we met the Attorney we said it would be wrong in principle for a member of the government to have power to order media organisations to take down material.

“We also told him that it would cause huge practical problems if defence lawyers sought blanket orders to taken down material which could be seen by jurors.

“We are very pleased that the Attorney has listened to our concerns.”

Mr Grieve added:  “The proposal was intended to provide the media with a measure of protection and reassurance whilst at the same time enabling the integrity of proceedings to be safeguarded.

“Although intended as a measure designed to assist and protect the media, the clause has been criticised on the grounds that it gives too much power to the Attorney General.

“These representations were made to me, in particular, by the Society of Editors who in addition do not accept that this clause addresses a pressing problem and have suggested that the current powers available are sufficient to protect proceedings.”