`Standard' to pay pounds 40,000 for contempt of court

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The Independent Online
The London Evening Standard newspaper was fined pounds 40,000 at the High Court yesterday over an article that halted the trial of IRA terrorists accused of escaping from Whitemoor Prison.

Lord Justice Kennedy said the article, which revealed that some of the six men on trial had been convicted of terrorist crimes, was a contempt which "had a very serious effect on the administration of justice".

It had forced Mr Justice Maurice Kay, the trial judge at Woolwich Crown Court, "to abort a very important criminal trial in which the six defendants faced serious charges". The "negligence" had cost the paper legal costs estimated at around pounds 50,000.

"But that, in our judgment, is not in itself a sufficient penalty," said Lord Justice Kennedy. "In the editor's own words, what happened was a fiasco, a failure of judgment and procedure."

Mr David Pannick QC, representing the Attorney General, said that Standard editor Max Hastings had issued a memo to his staff about the "serious embarrassment" the article, published in January this year, had caused the newspaper. "A whole succession of experienced journalists, all of whom should have known better, bear various degrees of blame," it said.