'Observer' article could lead to contempt action

THE Observer could face contempt of court proceedings over an article it published during the closing stages of the Beverly Allitt murder trial at Nottingham Crown Court.

The article was printed in the Sunday newspaper's review section while the jury was still considering several outstanding verdicts at the end of the three-month trial.

It was described by Desmond Brown QC, who appeared for the paper at Nottingham Crown Court yesterday after Allitt was sentenced, as a straightforward, unsensational description of Munchhausen's syndrome by proxy - the personality disorder believed to have motivated the nurse to kill and injure.

The article was seen by the paper's night lawyer who took the view that it did not present any serious risk of prejudice. Counsel said it had been a chastening experience for the Observer. Clearly, the system had not worked properly, he said.

Mr Brown said that for the editor, Donald Trelford, who leaves the editorship this weekend after 18 years at the helm, it was a matter of great regret and his apologies were both unqualified and sincere.

But Mr Justice Latham, the trial judge, said he was particularly concerned about the publication because if the jury had seen it, it could have presented very substantial difficulties for the trial. The judge said he intended to refer the article to the Attorney General for him to take a dispassionate view on whether it was appropriate for any legal proceedings to be taken against the newspaper.

Outside court, Mr Trelford refused to make any comment.

Earlier, the judge accepted an apology on behalf of the BBC regional news programme Look North, which screened background material while the jury was still out.

The judge said it was a case where he would have been justified in referring it to the Attorney General, but as the jury had not seen it, no harm had been done and he decided to take no further action.

The Guardian newspaper was also reprimanded by the judge over a leader article it printed after the first two murder verdicts had been delivered but before the jury had finished its work. The judge accepted a written apology from Peter Preston, the Guardian's editor, and said he would not take the matter further.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

£33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced PPC Search Marketing Executive

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: PR and Press Executive - Beauty

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading cosmetics group is lo...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Applications Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Applications Enginee...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue