Editor apologises for `human error'

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The Independent Online
Max Hastings, the editor of the London Evening Standard, yesterday apologised for printing an article which led to the abandonment of the trial of five IRA prisoners and an armed robber.

Mr Hastings had been ordered to appear at Woolwich Crown Court by the trial judge, Mr Justice Kay, who then referred the issue to the Attorney General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, for possible contempt proceedings.

On Wednesday, the Evening Standard published an article by Mark Honigsbaum, headlined "Alcatraz on Thames - No Way Out", which detailed information on and previous convictions of the accused, thus breaching a standing court order. On Thursday, Mr Justice Kay accepted defence arguments that the article constituted prejudicial publicity and abandoned proceedings.

Yesterday, Kuldip Singh QC, for the Evening Standard, offered an "unqualified, unconditional apology" on behalf of Mr Hastings, Mr Honigsbaum, the newspaper, and its publishers, Associated Newspapers.

After the hearing, Mr Hastings said: "We are desperately sorry that a moment of human error in this office led to the abandonment of proceedings in this case."