Lawyers representing a woman who had a sexual relationship with former bank boss Sir Fred Goodwin have asked a High Court judge to launch contempt proceedings against a national newspaper.
They accused the Daily Mail of “deliberately flouting” a High Court order saying the woman should not be identified and asked Mr Justice Tugendhat to refer their complaint to the Attorney General, who would decide whether to prosecute.
Lawyers for the Daily Mail said there had been no “deliberate intention” to flout or frustrate the court order and argued that a report in the newspaper had not breached it.
Mr Justice Tugendhat reserved judgment following a hearing at the High Court in London.
A High Court judge made the privacy order in March after Sir Fred took legal action when he discovered that The Sun newspaper planned to publish a story about the “relationship”.
Mr Justice Tugendhat altered the order on 19 May by lifting a ban on the publication of Sir Fred’s name – after the former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive was named in parliament by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Stoneham.
But the judge said legal action was ongoing and the order still banned journalists from identifying the woman or publishing details of the relationship.
Hugh Tomlinson QC, for the woman, today said an article in the Mail on 20 May contained 10 “pieces of identifying information” and was in breach of the order.
“The court is entitled to infer, because they had access to the best legal advice, that this was a deliberate decision taken by them to flout the court’s order,” said Tomlinson, who also represents Goodwin.
“On the face of it this is a blatant criminal contempt of court.”
Jonathan Caplan QC, for the Dail Mail’s publishers, Associated Newspapers, disagreed.
“There was no deliberate intention by the Daily Mail to flout or frustrate the order,” said Caplan. “I don’t accept that we have breached (the) order or frustrated it.”
Mr Justice Tugendhat said he would consider whether to refer the article to the Attorney General and announce his decision at a later date.