Sun scraps Jefferies Supreme Court contempt appeal

The Sun has withdrawn a Supreme Court appeal against its contempt of court fine over its Chris Jefferies coverage but tabloid rival the Daily Mirror is pushing ahead with its challenge.

In June The Sun was fined £18,000 and the Mirror was hit with a £50,000 bill when the divisional court found articles published on 31 December 2010 and 1 January 2011 were in contempt.

The Supreme Court confirmed The Sun’s publisher News Group Newspapers had scrapped its appeal and a spokesperson for the Attorney’s General Office told Press Gazette it had consented to the withdrawal.

It is understood that a decision on whether to grant the Mirror’s publisher Mirror Group Newspapers permission to appeal is expected within the next fortnight.

Both publishers said they were unable to comment.

After the disappearance of Bristol architect Joanna Yeates in December 2010 the Daily Mirror carried a front page with the headline “Jo Suspect is Peeping Tom” beneath a photograph of Jefferies, and another front-page headline read “Was Killer Waiting In Jo’s Flat?”, with sub-headings below reading “Police seize bedding for tests” and “Landlord held until Tuesday”.

The Sun’s front-page headline read “Obsessed By Death”, next to a photograph of Jefferies, and below carried the words: “Jo Suspect ‘Scared Kids'”.

On the same day they were hit with contempt of court fines the papers also paid out ‘very substantial” libel damages to Jefferies along with six other national newspapers in an out of court settlement.

The Divisional Court found the Mirror and Sun coverage “impeded” the course of justice because the articles had the effect of “vilifying” Jefferies and would deter witnesses from coming forward to give evidence, which was capable of constituting contempt of court.

Both papers said they were appealing against the decision in August 2011.

They were expected to argue the court’s conclusion was little more than supposition and that the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC, failed to produce any evidence to show witnesses were deterred from coming forward.

They were also expected to argue that the Divisional Court had failed to give sufficient weight to the so-called “fade factor” in considering whether the coverage could have caused a substantial risk of serious prejudice to any proceedings.

Jefferies said he would never recover from the ‘reckless’coverage in the press when he appeared in front of the Leveson Inquiry in November,

Earlier this week Stephen Waring, The Sun’s publishing director, described the paper’s Jefferies coverage as a ‘watershed’moment for the British press that had changed the culture of the paper’s newsroom.

When Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace gave evidence to the inquiry earlier this month he said the paper’s coverage following Jefferies’ arrest was a ‘black mark’on his editing record.

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