Sports reporters covering the Harry Redknapp tax evasion case are alleged to have breached court orders on six separate occasions – and the Attorney General’s Office has confirmed investigations into two of those breaches.
Last week we reported that a Guardian News and Media journalist was being investigated after tweeting the name of a juror on the first day of the trial. This led to the individual being discharged and a new juror being sworn in.
The journalist is later alleged to have tweeted information about legal argument which was taking place in the absence of the jury.
The AGO has confirmed to Press Gazette that it is also investigating an alleged court order breach made by a sports reporter from Talksport on 17 November 2011.
Press Gazette understands that four other alleged breaches of court orders by sports reporters recorded by the Judicial Office are not being further investigated. They are: The Daily Telegraph on 24 November 2010, the Sunday Express on 12 June 2011, the Evening Standard on 5 July 2011 and The People on 11 September 2011.
At the start of the trial on Monday 22 January the trial judge, Judge Anthony Leonard QC, read out a note about tweeting from court to the media and arranged for a copy to be posted on the court door.
It said: ”Tweets’, wherever they are sent from, should relate to factual matters only, by way of example, reporting what has been said in court or what stage the trial has reached.
”Tweets’ should not contain the reporter’s comments on the evidence, by way of example, ‘the witness is buckling under cross-examination’ or ‘the jury does not seem to be impressed by this evidence’. Such comments undermine the defendants’ right to receive a fair trial.
‘There is a Contempt of Court Order still in place. If anyone is unsure of the extent to which there are restrictions on reporting, this can be raised with the judge by way of a note sent to the clerk of the court.”
But the next day Judge Leonard QC banned the use of Twitter by journalists covering the trial as a result of Guardian journalist Jamie Jackson’s actions, and he encouraged reporters to speak to their newspaper or broadcaster’s legal departments ‘if they are in any doubt about what can and cannot be reported”.
In December the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, confirmed that journalists no longer need to make applications to a judge to tweet from court, although the new guidance warned that a judge ‘always retains full discretion to prohibit live, text based communications from court, in the interests of justice”.
The ‘paramount question’for the judge was whether it could interfere with the administration of justice, he said.
Anyone tweeting from court is also bound by court reporting restrictions under the Contempt of Court Act 1981.
A defendant convicted of contempt can face an unlimited fine or as long as two years in prison.
Redknapp was today cleared of tax evasion.