Articles published in two national newspapers following the arrest of a suspect in the hunt for landscape architect Joanna Yeates's killer were in contempt of court, the Attorney General alleged at the High Court today.
Dominic Grieve QC told a hearing in London that he wanted an "order for committal or other appropriate penalty" made against the publishers of the Sun and Daily Mirror.
Miss Yeates, who lived in Clifton, Bristol, disappeared on December 17 last year after going for Christmas drinks with colleagues. Her frozen body was found on a roadside verge in Failand, Somerset, on Christmas Day.
Mr Grieve - the Government's chief legal adviser - told the court that his concerns related to coverage following the arrest of Miss Yeates's landlord Christopher Jefferies, who is in his 60s, on December 30.
The newspapers dispute Mr Grieve's claims and deny contempt.
Three judges, including Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, are scheduled to hear evidence over the next two days.
Mr Grieve was given the go-ahead to bring contempt proceedings by the High Court earlier this year.
At a hearing in May, lawyers outlined details from articles published following the death of Miss Yeates, 25, and judges ruled that there was an "arguable" case against the newspapers.
Mr Grieve told judges today, in written documents before the court, that his concerns related to articles in the Mirror on December 31 and January 1 and an article in the Sun on January 1.
He said the articles would have posed a "substantial risk of serious prejudice" to any trial Mr Jefferies might have faced.
Mr Jefferies was subsequently released without charge. He was "entirely innocent", Mr Grieve told judges.
A 33-year-old engineer has admitted killing Miss Yeates. Dutchman Vincent Tabak has pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied murder.
Tabak, who lived next-door to Miss Yeates, is due to go on trial accused of murder at Bristol Crown Court in October.
Mr Grieve told the court Mr Jeffries was a retired teacher and Miss Yeates' landlord.
He said the articles contained material which was "exceptionally adverse and hostile" to Mr Jeffries.
Mr Grieve said Mr Jeffries' "challenged" material contained in the articles and had made a "separate libel complaint".
He said the articles not only posed a "substantial" risk of prejudice and "impedance" to any trial but also contained material which would not have been placed before a jury as "admissible evidence".
Mr Grieve told judges he had warned the media about coverage "in the context of (Mr Jeffries') arrest" during a BBC radio interview on December 31.
Lawyers representing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) - publishers of the Mirror - and News Group Newspapers (NGN) - publishers of The Sun - have outlined their defence in written submissions given to judges.
After summarising the facts, Mr Grieve outlined "legal principles" on the law relating to contempt.
Lord Judge told the court that judges would not deliver judgment today.Reuse content