IRA bombers' right to veto drawings 'crazy'

Barton: “facing daft decisions”

The Real IRA terrorists convicted last week at the Old Bailey for the bombing of the BBC and other targets were given by the court the right to veto pictures of themselves that would be used by the media, it has emerged.

In an unprecedented move by the court, before the the jury was sworn in on 20 January, the men – Noel Maguire and brothers Aiden and Robert Hulme – were handed full control of how they were depicted by the court artists. This followed a defence request that the three defendants be able to approve any pictures of themselves.

The judge, Mr Justice Gibbs, agreed to their request, allowing them to ensure that images of the terrorists did not have “a negative impact” on them.

As a result of the ruling, the three court artists were asked to return to court the next day with their pictures of the men for approval by the terrorists. This led to one picture being rejected and the artist being told to come back again the following day with a more satisfactory likeness.

The only journalist in court at the time was Richard Lutz, special features editor for Central News television. Details of the judge’s decision could not be revealed until after the trial.

“It’s outrageous. No one should tell us how to report a case or what pictures to show. They’ll be telling us what to write next,” he said.

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said it was an issue that “becomes crazier by the day”. He added: “We are all for justice being fair to the defendants, but it should all be open and properly reported.”

The ruling came out of an application by the prosecution to lift a ban on the use of pictures of the men. The judge agreed to lift the ban, but the defence countered with the requests to assume control of any images used.

Dan Barton, editor of Central News in the West Midlands, writing in this week’s Press Gazette, said the media was currently facing a reality of “more and more restrictions”.

“And worse – rules are being imposed arbitrarily. Almost every day we face daft decisions by the courts and police.”

Central News was recently in a row with West Mercia Constabulary, which imposed a licence on the use of pictures of a convicted man for a news programme that forbade its use more than once.

By Wale Azeez

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