Rod Liddle is let off despite almost causing Lawrence trial to collapse

Journalist not charged as Spectator magazine is fined over article that jeopardised court case 

The Spectator magazine was today fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £2,000 to the parents of Stephen Lawrence after admitting an article it published jeopardised the trial of two men later convicted of his murder.
The Spectator magazine was today fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £2,000 to the parents of Stephen Lawrence after admitting an article it published jeopardised the trial of two men later convicted of his murder.

The Spectator magazine issued a grovelling apology today as it was convicted over an article by the former editor of Radio Four’s Today programme Rod Liddle that threatened to bring down the long-awaited trial of two men accused of murdering Stephen Lawrence.

The 184-year-old publication was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 to each of the teenager’s parents for the distress caused by the article, which broke court-imposed restrictions on what could be reported to ensure a fair trial for Gary Dobson and David Norris.

The article, which highlighted the previous convictions and racism of the two men and described them as “white trash”, came to light as Stephen’s best friend, Duwayne Brooks, gave highly charged evidence detailing the last minutes of the black teenager’s life during the Old Bailey trial.

The article had the potential to have “devastating consequences” on the trial ofthe two men, who were both later convicted for murder and are serving life sentences, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard today. The murder trial hung in the balance for a couple of hours, said Alison Morgan, prosecuting.

The magazine said the article was published because of an “unprecedented and bitterly regretted failure” at the publication after the editor, Fraser Nelson, was off work sick and a senior outside lawyer, who was supposed to review all work, was also absent. The lawyer passed the work to a junior, who gave it a clean bill of health, despite a series of court rulings limiting what could be said about the two men before the end of the trial.

Brian Spiro, representing the magazine, said it apologised “not only to those closest to Stephen Lawrence” but to the police, prosecutors, the trial judge and everyone who worked to ensure the wheels of justice ran smoothly.

The Spectator faced a maximum penalty of £5,000 after avoiding the more serious charge of contempt of court – which could have led to an unlimited fine and the publisher being jailed for up to two years – because no juror saw the article last November.

Neville Lawrence, the father of Stephen, said the fine would amount only to a “slap on the wrist” for the magazine.

Prosecutors had looked at whether Mr Nelson – who sat at the back of the court today – should be prosecuted but instead decided to take action against the company rather than any person.

Mr Liddle could have been prosecuted only if the more serious charge had been pursued, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

District Judge Howard Riddle said the article had at least the potential to undermine justice. “It takes no imagination whatsoever to realise the distress that this development would cause, not least to the family of Stephen Lawrence,” he said.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in