East Kent Mercury overturns murder trial secrecy

The KM Group has succeeded in overturning a court order which would have postponed reporting of a murder trial.

The ban was made because the accused is facing a second indictment – but it was overturned following written submissions from Kent Messenger journalist Keith Hunt.

The original ban meant the East Kent Mercury had to change its front page but ran the story on its website as soon as it was lifted.

Hunt argued that there would be no prejudice to the second trial, involving an allegation of grievous bodily harm, scheduled for April as they were two unrelated cases.

It was also pointed out that the murder allegation was already in the public domain, with previous preliminary hearings being reported.

Hunt cited various authorities, including a judgment by Lord Justice Farquharson in 1991 that the fact an accused expected to face a second indictment after the hearing of the first one did not in itself justify the making of a Section 4 order under the Contempt of Court Act.

The judge said it depended on all the circumstances, including the nature of the charges, the timing of the second trial and the place where the second trial was to be heard.

Judge Patience said he had reflected on Hunt’s letter and in particular the reference to Lord Justice Farquharson’s comments.

The judge said he reminded himself that jurors for the court did not come from the catchment area where the murder trial was likely to be reported.

He added: “I have reconsidered this matter and have come to the conclusion that, in fact, the order I made yesterday is one which need not persist and I lift it.”

Hunt said afterwards: “It was a pity that the order was requested and made late in the day, so that one of our newspapers had to pull it from their front page.

“I was grateful, however, that the judge considered my submissions carefully and reached a commonsense conclusion on the matter in the face of opposition from an experienced QC.”

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