Papers face action on Joanna Yeates case

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The Independent Online

The High Court is to decide whether articles published in two national newspapers following the arrest of a suspect by police investigating the killing of landscape architect Joanna Yeates were in contempt of court.

Two High Court judges today gave Government lawyers permission to pursue contempt proceedings against the publishers of The Sun and Daily Mirror, in relation to coverage following the death of Miss Yeates, 25, of Bristol, in December.

Lord Justice Moses, who was sitting with Mrs Justice Dobbs, gave Attorney General Dominic Grieve the go-ahead after ruling that there was an "arguable" case against the newspapers.

Following today's hearing in London, lawyers said two High Court judges would probably be asked to decide whether the newspapers were in contempt at a hearing in London on a date to be fixed.

Miss Yeates, who lived in Clifton, Bristol, disappeared on December 17 after going for Christmas drinks with colleagues. Her frozen body was found on a roadside verge in Failand, north Somerset, on Christmas Day.

Andrew Caldecott QC, for the Attorney General - the Government's chief legal adviser, today told the court that there were concerns about the newspapers' coverage following the arrest of Miss Yeates' landlord, Christopher Jefferies, on December 30.

Mr Jefferies was subsequently released without charge and there was no suggestion "whatsoever" that he had any involvement in Miss Yeates' death, said Mr Caldecott.

But Mr Caldecott said the Attorney General felt that articles in the Daily Mirror on December 31 and in The Sun on January 1, would have posed a "substantial risk of serious prejudice" to any trial Mr Jefferies might have faced.

He said Mr Grieve had warned the media about coverage "in the context of Christopher Jefferies' arrest" in a BBC Radio 4 interview on December 31.

Lord Justice Moses said the court had to decide today whether there was an "arguable" case before giving the go-ahead for proceedings to continue.

"In my view it is plainly arguable," he said. "It is to my mind clearly arguable that both of these newspapers were guilty of contempt. The matter will have to be determined by the (High Court)."

A 33-year-old engineer has admitted killing Miss Yeates. Dutchman Vincent Tabak pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied murder at a hearing earlier this month. Tabak, who lived next door to Miss Yeates, is due to go on trial accused of murder at Bristol Crown Court in October.