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Report No. 200

(3) Publications which comment or reflect upon the merits of the case:

This is indeed the extreme form of 'trial by newspaper' since the newspaper usurps the function of the Court without the safeguards of procedure, right to cross-examine etc. Such publications prejudge the facts and influence the Court, witnesses and others. It is, however, permissible to publish the fact of arrest and the exact nature of charge as in R v. Payne 1896(1) QB 577 and that is not contempt.

Assertions of guilt or innocence of the person are treated as serious contempt. In R v. Bolam, ex p Haigh: (1949) 93 Sol Jo 220, Haigh was described as a 'vampire' and that he had committed other murders and the publication gave the names of victims. Lord Goddard sent the editor to jail and fined the proprietors of Daily Mirror calling it "a disgrace to English journalism". In R v. Odham's Press Ltd ex p AG: 1957 (1) QB 73, the paper described the person who was accused for brothel keeping that he was 'in the foul business' of 'purveying vice and managing street women'. That was held to be contempt. In AG v. News Group Newspapers Ltd: 1988(2) AllER 906 it was held that the publication of guilt amounted to contempt.

Assertion of guilt by 'innuendo' was also held to be contempt in Thorpe v. Waugh: (1979) CA Transcript 282, R v. McCann: (1990) 92 Cr App Rep 239, AG v. English: 1983 (1) AC 116. In Shamim v. Zinat: 1971 Crl L5 1586 (All), an article was published in a magazine pending an appeal against conviction for murder expressing opinion on the merits of the case. The High Court held that it amounts to contempt of court because it is an interference into the course of justice.

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

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