Published on 29 Jul 2011 Sections

Sun and Mirror in contempt over Yeates landlord stories

The landlord of Joanna Yeates is given damages and a public apology by eight newspapers over reports connecting him with her death, while the Sun and Mirror are found to be guilty of contempt.

The High Court has found the two newspapers to be in contempt of court when reporting Joanna Yeates’ death – and the subsequent arrest of her landlord Christopher Jefferies – last December.

In a written ruling the Lord Judge, sitting with Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Owen, said: “In our judgment the two publications in the Daily Mirror created substantial risks to the course of justice.

“The material in the two publications of the Daily Mirror is extreme,” he added.

The judges fined the Mirror’s publishers £50,000 and The Sun’s publishers £18,000.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve had brought contempt proceedings and told judges that reports would have prejudiced any trial Mr Jefferies might have faced.

He said: “While there was a great amount of speculation and copy relating to Mr Jefferies across much of the media, these three pieces of newspaper coverage were a different matter.

“They breached the Contempt of Court Act and the court has found that there was a risk of serious prejudice to any future trial.

“This prosecution is a reminder to the Press that the Contempt of Court Act applies from the time of arrest.”

Chris Jefferies (December)

Libel damages

Meanwhile Mr Jefferies has accepted “substantial” undisclosed libel damages and a public apology at London’s High Court from eight national newspapers.

He has accepted the damages from the Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Daily Record, the Daily Express, the Daily Star and the Scotsman.

They have apologised “unreservedly”.

Mr Jefferies’ lawyer, Louis Charalambous, said the newspapers who paid him libel damages had acknowledged the falsity of the allegations in over 40 articles published in late December 2010 and early January 2011.

“Christopher Jefferies is the latest victim of the regular witch hunts and character assassination conducted by the worst elements of the British tabloid media.

“Many of the stories published in these newspapers are designed to ‘monster’ the individual, in flagrant disregard for his reputation, privacy and rights to a fair trial,” Mr Charalambous said outside court.

Cleared

Mr Jefferies who lived in the Clifton area of Bristol, was arrested on 30 December but was released on police bail.

He has been cleared of any involvement.

Three weeks after his release, Vincent Tabak, a 33-year-old Dutch citizen, was arrested on suspicion of murdering Ms Yeates. He has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and will face a full murder trial later this year.

Mr Jefferies is also involved in a civil claim against the police for wrongful arrest and unlawful imprisonment.