Tabloids in the dock over Jo Yeates case

Contempt of court in the spotlight
Contempt of court in the spotlight

By staff

Two tabloids are on trial for their coverage of a man questioned in the wake of the Jo Yeates murder.

Attorney general Dominic Grieve has brought proceedings against the Sun and the Mirror for publishing stories which would have made a fair trial impossible if Christopher Jeffries, her landlord, was actually charged.

Ms Yeates disappeared on December 17th after a night out in Bristol. Her body was discovered on Christmas Day.

In the event, Mr Jeffries was released without charge, but only after numerous highly negative and suggestive comments appeared about him in the newspapers.

The high court heard how Mr Grieve believed there was a "substantial risk of serious prejudice" because of the newspapers' coverage.

The trial is an unusual move from the attorney general and seems to reflect a view in legal circles that there has been a slide in standards around contempt with the advent of 24-hour news and the blogosphere.

Legal experts are intent on preventing an American-style situation where presumptuous comment is regularly printed in the media.

Mr Jeffries is also suing six national newspapers in the civil courts over the coverage of him.

Three judges are set to spend today and tomorrow hearing evidence relating to the case. Both the Sun and the Mirror deny liability in the case.

A 33-year-old Dutch engineer, Vincent Tabak, has pleaded guilty to Ms Yeates' manslaughter. He denies murder. A murder trial is scheduled to begin this autumn.


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