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Report No. 200

(2) Publication of Confessions:

Though a confession to police is inadmissible in law still publications of confessions before trial are treated as highly prejudicial and affecting the Court's impartiality and amount to serious contempt. In R v. Clarke, ex p Crippen: (1910) 103 LT 636, Crippen was arrested in Canada but not formally charged, but a publication appeared in England in Daily Chronicle, as cabled by its foreign correspondent, that "Crippen admitted in the presence of witnesses that he had killed his wife but denied the act of murder".

The publication was treated as contempt. Darling J observed that "Anything more calculated to prejudice the defence could not be imagined". In Fagan's case referred to above also, a publication that Fagan confessed to stealing wine was held to create 'very' substantial risk of serious prejudice.

Captain Alfred Dreyus, a Jewish officer in French Army, was charged in 1894 with high treason for allegedly passing military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris. The anti semetic media immensely highlighted his untold confessions, unfounded charges and illusory events. He was prosecuted and sentenced to imprisonment on Devil's Island. Twelve years after his imprisonment, the truth was discovered and he was exonerated and readmitted into the army (Media, The Fourth Pillar by Miss Vismai Rao, V year, University School of Law & Legal Studies, Indraprastha University).

In New South Wales, a police officer was found guilty of contempt in AG (NSW) v. Dean (1990) 20 NSWLR 650, when, in the course of police media conference following the arrest of a suspect in a murder inquiry, he answered a journalist's question with a statement which suggested that the person confessed to the police. He was held to be in contempt but was let off without fine.

Trial by Media free speech and fair trial under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 Back

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