Letter: Jailed editor

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The Independent Online
Sir: Terence Morris points out (Letters, June 17) that the jailing of Sylvester Bolam, editor of the Daily Mirror, in 1949 arose from the Haigh case, not the Heath case. But surely it cannot be right to suggest that the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Goddard, may have been influenced in his harsh sentencing by the 'irritation' of the trial judge, Sir Travers Humphreys.

The contempt hearing, which I attended, took place well before the trial, and one of the ironies was that the defence put forward at that trial was that Haigh had indeed killed several people, but pleaded in effect diminished responsibility - a circumstance relevant to sentencing, if not to liability, on the contempt issue, but not known at that time.

I believe that it was this case which led to the change in practice whereby the hearing of serious contempt cases related to criminal trials are deferred until after the trial, a sensible arrangement giving the contempt judge the best chance of assessing any 'prejudice' of the criminal trial.

The death of Sylvester Bolam, a few months after he was released from prison, was the outstanding post-war tragedy of Fleet Street. He was one of the best editors I worked with in my 40 years there.

Yours sincerely,


London, NW11