Two newspapers that caused a trial for attempted abduction against Milly Dowler’s murderer Levi Bellfield to collapse have been fined £10,000 each for contempt of court.
The Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror were both considered to have published seriously prejudicial stories in the wake of Bellfield’s conviction for Miss Dowler’s murder, meaning that a separate case against him for trying to kidnap Rachel Cowles had to be dropped.
The fines, imposed by two judges at the High Court yesterday, were significantly lower than other high-profile contempt cases. The Sunday Mirror was made to pay £175,000 2002 following the collapse of the trial of the footballer Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer, while The Daily Mirror had to pay £50,000 for articles concerning Chris Jefferies, who was arrested but never charged for the murder of Joanna Yeates in 2010.
Bellfield was accused of targeting Miss Cowles, then aged 11, the day before he abducted and killed Miss Dowler in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in 2002.
Jurors at the Old Bailey had yet to decide on their verdict for the Cowles case when the two newspapers published their articles, leading to them being discharged by the judge.
The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, said that the newspapers were guilty of “ultimately depriving Rachel Cowles of a verdict in her case”.