HL Deb 07 November 2002 vol 640 cc152-3WA
Lord Lamont of Lerwick

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On how many occasions in the last seven years the Attorney-General has warned editors of newspapers about the possibility of contempt of court; and what were the dates and incidents which gave rise to each specific concern. [HL6199]

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith):

Records are not kept of the total number of occasions when Attorney-Generals have written to editors about the possibility of contempt of court over the last seven years. However, if circumstances warrant it. the Attorney-General will issue a note of guidance to editors reminding them of their general obligations regarding contempt.

It is not possible to provide information about the total number of occasions guidance has been issued without incurring disproportionate costs, but by way of examples. Since I became Attorney-General, guidance was issued on more than one occasion in relation to the Thompson and Venables injunction and more recently in relation to the press coverage of the Soham murder case.

In addition, where specific articles are drawn to my attention, I may write to editors asking for their representations. As a result, either proceedings are commenced, or where proceedings do not result, I may remind editors of their continuing obligations in relation to contempt. By way of an example, and before proceedings were commenced, I wrote to the editor of the Sunday Mirror following the publication of a prejudicial article on 8 April 2001 which ultimately led to the collapse of the first trial involving Leeds United football players.

I have also written to a number of newspapers in relation to their coverage of the Soham murder case and correspondence is continuing.