the NY times article you won’t see from the UK

NytimesYesterday’s New York Times carried a front page article about the evidence that has been compiled on the "London terror plot" suspects.

Anyone trying to view the article from a UK IP address is redirected to the page at left explaining that "On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of in Britain. This arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial."

In the UK, reporting on the "active proceedings" of the courts in a way that could prejudice potential jurors is considered to be in contempt of court.

Currently in the UK a website publisher could be held liable for defamatory content (libel) posted by it’s users – the subject of the /discuss feature I wrote for the Press Gazette last week.

The same principle is probably true with regards to contempt of court although I haven’t been able to find any case authority on that. If I’m correct, this means that someone who reads the New York Times article that has been legally published in America, then visits and innocently posts about the article on a website in the UK, could themselves, and the website they post on, be held accountable for contempt of court.

It’s a fairly ridiculous situation – particularly when one realises that the effect of such information being published in the UK can be that the case is thrown out of the courts and suspects released without ever going to trial.

(Link Credit: Martin at the Press Gazette)

Update 16.43: Web 2.0 Newspapers has blogged this story and remarks:

So are bloggers subject to the same information laws as, say, newspapers? Everything we’ve read (and linked to) says it’s one of the grey (/gray) areas of Internet publishing, one of those yet-to-be-determined questions. It’s tricky to say the least. Not all bloggers are journalists, and of those who are or consider themselves as such, only some are widely recognized and media-accredited. The question takes us back to the question of what role bloggers play in today’s journalism…


  1. Thanks for the comment on our blog. (
    You’ve raised some good Qs there about “How we reconcile the current law of contempt in the UK with freedom of speech, instant access to information and news from around the globe, etc” — wish we had some answers! Courts do need to protect “innocent until proven guilty” to give justice a fair shake, true, but who will really take the hit in a situation like this? The accused? Will it damage them so much to have info released? It could, but then again the public has a right to know. This is tricky stuff but we appreciate the POV, since yours is studied on the matter from what we can tell, eh?

Comments are closed.