BBC challenge gets Sheridan case restrictions eased

A restriction banning almost all reporting of the preliminary hearings in the perjury case against former Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan and his wife Gail was made significantly less restrictive after an application by the BBC.

The original order – passed by Lord Bracadale – allowed just the fact that a preliminary hearing had taken place, the date and location, to be reported.

Lord Bracadale amended the order during a hearing on 28 July after BBC lawyers argued that the original was too wide-ranging and not justified.

An argument put forward on behalf of the Sheridans was that the case had already attracted considerable prejudicial publicity.

Maggie Scott QC, for Tommy Sheridan, and Paul McBride QC, for Gail Sheridan, argued that reporting of discussions during preliminary hearings about evidence to be put at the trial would be likely to prejudice jurors.

Scott said the context was extensive and continuing prejudicial publicity, and the possibility that reporting of what happened at preliminary hearings would allow people to track down information of a prejudicial nature on the internet.

McBride argued that the original order was proportionate, reasonable and necessary to prevent a substantial risk of prejudice to the proceedings.

Ronnie Clancy QC, for the BBC argued that reporting that there was legal argument about preliminary issues dealt with at hearings was not of itself prejudicial,

The court was also told that the original order was so wide it banned reporting of information which could not possibly be prejudicial such as the date of the trial, its likely duration and location.

In addition, the order banned any indication of the number of witnesses involved, and any information about any special defences or pleas in bar of trial.

After considering the submissions Lord Bracadale made a new order which prohibited, until the conclusion of the proceedings and trial, the reporting of legal arguments on preliminary issues including all evidential matters, and issues concerning documentation.

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