Editors to pay when reports wreck trials

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Newspaper editors could be forced to reimburse millions of pounds in wasted costs if they are found liable for causing the collapse of a criminal trial, under new rules announced yesterday.

Newspaper editors could be forced to reimburse millions of pounds in wasted costs if they are found liable for causing the collapse of a criminal trial, under new rules announced yesterday.

The change in the law follows a series of high-profile cases in which judges have had to order retrials in the wake of adverse media coverage. In 2002 the first trial of the former Leeds footballers Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate was abandoned at a cost of £10m after the Sunday Mirror published an interview that was deemed to be in contempt of court. Ministers said that jurors, witnesses and members of the public would also face fines if their behaviour was found to amount to "serious misconduct" which led to the abandonment of a criminal case.

The "wasted costs" orders will apply in magistrates' courts, Crown Courts and the Court of Appeal, and to any part of proceedings from preliminary hearings to sentencings.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, said: "A huge amount of time, money and effort is wasted when a case collapses. The disruption and trauma that the sudden collapse of a case can cause to victims, witnesses and defendants can be significant."