Editor of 'Punch' to face court for Shayler contempt

Paul Lashmar
Friday 28 July 2000 00:00
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The Editor of Punch is to be prosecuted for contempt after publishing an article by the ex-MI5 officer David Shayler on the IRA's 1993 Bishopsgate bombing.

The Editor of Punch is to be prosecuted for contempt after publishing an article by the ex-MI5 officer David Shayler on the IRA's 1993 Bishopsgate bombing.

A spokesman for the Attorney General's office confirmed yesterday that the editor of Punch, James Steen, is to face court action. "The article breaches an existing injunction which bans publication of any information David Shayler acquired by virtue of employment for the security service," he said.

In the article Shayler details blunders by MI5, GCHQ andthe Metropolitan Police's anti-terrorist branch which, he says, could have stopped the IRA active service unit before the Bishopsgate blast that killed one person and injured 44. In the article Mr Shayler identifies four Irishmen he says were involved in the bombing.

"The prosecution is ludicrous," Mr Shayler said yesterday. "They are probably only prosecuting because Punch is owned by Mohamed Al Fayed and because the magazine is small and therefore they think it is easier to bully."

If Mr Steen is found guilty under the Contempt of Court Act he could face a large fine or jail sentence.

Mr Shayler, who lives in Paris, has been writing a column for Punch for some months. The Shayler column is sent to the Government Law Officers before publication for clearance. The Bishopsgate article was sent last Friday.

On Monday the Treasury Solicitor said the Government needed more time to consider the article, adding: "My clients are satisfied that publication of the article in its existing form would be in breach of the injunction and would cause damage to national security."

The Treasury Solicitor's office said that other departments were still being consulted and they would respond as soon as possible. With printing imminent Mr Steen declined to delay but the article was cut back - not enough, however, for the Attorney General's office.

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