Television reporter cleared of contempt charge

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The trial of a Granada television reporter charged with contempt for refusing to disclose sources to a judicial tribunal collapsed yesterday after a judge ruled that her own words could not be used as the sole case against her.

Judge Dominic Lynch directed the jury to acquit Susan O'Keeffe after ruling that prosecution witnesses had not shown she had refused to answer a question put to her by the tribunal of inquiry into the Irish beef industry in December 1992.

Ms O'Keeffe, 34, researched the 1991 World in Action investigation into the Irish beef conglomerate Goodman International and allegations of political favours and fraud in the beef industry. She initially faced three contempt charges, two of which were dropped.

Ms O'Keeffe, the only person to have been charged as a result of the three-year tribunal, had been asked to provide a list of names and addresses of those she interviewed for the report.

The court was told the law on judicial inquiries directed that a witness's voluntary testimony could not be used against them as evidence. Kevin Haugh, for the defence, said the evidence showed only omission of information, not refusal to answer.

When the prosecution called the tribunal registrar it emerged that his evidence was based solely on Ms O'Keeffe's own words. The judge rejected an attempt to amend the charge and ordered the jury to acquit her.