Media win legal bid on Tabak porn

Rod Minchin
Sunday 30 October 2011 23:51

The media won an important victory for press freedom following an attempt to block the publication of Vincent Tabak's sordid sex life and interest in violent pornography, it can be disclosed today.

The prosecution in Tabak's trial tried to stop details of material recovered from computers linked to the 33-year-old being published after his conviction for the murder of Joanna Yeates.

Details of the police investigation revealing that Tabak had paid for sex with a prostitute and was obsessed with extreme internet pornography emerged during his trial at Bristol Crown Court.

In an attempt to put this information before the jury, prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC made two applications to Mr Justice Field and disclosed what investigators had discovered about the well-educated and apparently respectable Dutchman.

However, the judge blocked both bids and jurors were never told of his sordid secrets - instead ruling that the material could not be published until the end of his trial.

The judge made two orders under Section 4(2) and Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 prohibiting publication.

However, after the jury retired to consider its verdict, Mr Lickley sought to continue both orders beyond the end of Tabak's trial.

He said police were carrying out further inquiries into what was found on the computer hard drives and were yet to question Tabak about it.

"We have sought to consider and exercise caution at this stage," Mr Lickley said.

"Your Lordship is aware to the concern the Crown have and the nature of any further investigation and we asked yesterday that there be a continuation of orders in the context of that."

Mr Lickley, who admitted he was talking cryptically, was told by the judge to "state the basis of the application" in open court.

The barrister replied: "I have concern about what I can say."

The Press Association and the Bristol Evening Post had both made written submissions to the judge opposing Mr Lickley's application.

A barrister, who had been jointly instructed by The Times, Daily Telegraph and The Sun newspapers and BBC, also addressed the judge opposing the prosecution application.

William Clegg QC, for Tabak, said he did not oppose the lifting of both orders.

In discussions with Mr Lickley, Mr Justice Field said the key to determining the success of the application was whether the proceedings Tabak may face in the future were "pending or imminent".

If they were not then the court did not have any jurisdiction to continue the orders beyond the current trial, the judge said.

"There is a process that has to be followed; in short it would necessary for Mr Tabak to be questioned about the matters," Mr Lickley replied.

"Following that a decision would be made as to whether proceedings would be commenced. That timescale can be relatively short.

"That is the stage we are at now and that is the process that is to be commenced.

"Of course there is a delay necessary because of the proceedings here today but that is the timescale we are considering."

Mr Lickley then referred to one of the submissions made by the Press Association, which set out the terms under the Contempt of Court Act as to when proceedings can be classed as "active".

"It may be that we haven't reached that stage but we are in very delicate phase immediately prior to questioning," Mr Lickley said.

"Your Lordship is aware of our concern that should there be further proceedings they can disposed of fairly."

Ruling in favour of the media and rejecting the prosecution's application, Mr Justice Field said: "The prosecution do apply for the continuation of those orders.

"That application is not founded on an apprehended risk of prejudice in this trial but on an apprehending risk of prejudice in a trial that might happen if proceedings are brought against the defendant in respect of other material found on his hard drive.

"The court has no jurisdiction unless there are imminent proceedings.

"I am told the defendant is yet to be interviewed in respect of these matters and in the ordinary way, one would expect, that following interview there would then be careful consideration as to whether criminal proceedings should be begun by charging the defendant.

"Although it may be that interview, consideration and charge may occur in a relatively short period of time, in my judgment it cannot be said that the other proceedings contemplated by this application are not imminent.

"Accordingly I am of the view that I do not have jurisdiction to make the order applied for.

"After the verdict, unless there is a fundamental change of circumstances, both of the orders will fall away."

PA

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