Litigation Recent Decisions 3/2/98

Decisions are taken from Lawtel's Case Law database. LTL: Lawtel report; TLR: Times Law Reports; ILR: Independent Law Report.

No contempt of court in respect of match fixing trial

Her Majesty's Attorney General v (1) Sunday Newspapers (2) Thomas Anthony John Rubython (3) Anil Bhoyrul (1998)

Court: DC (Pill LJ, Garland J) 20/1/9Summary: Allegations of contempt of court not proved against publishers and staff of Sunday Business newspaper in respect of articles about the trial on charges of alleged football match fixing.

The Attorney General sought an order that the respondents (respectively, the publishers, Rubython, the editor, later editor-in-chief, and Bhoyrul, a journalist and later associate and acting editor) were in contempt of court by reason of articles published in the weekly newspaper Sunday Business on four occasions. The newspaper was in existence for about 14 months until it went into receivership and its maximum sale was 70,000 copies per issue. The articles concerned the trial of three footballers, Grobbelaar, Segers and Fashanu and a Malaysian businessman on charges of match fixing at Winchester Crown Court (the Grobbelaar trial). The jury was unable to agree and at a re-trial all defendants were acquitted. An important prosecution witness was to be Christopher Vincent, from whom Grobbelaar was alleged to have accepted money. Bhoyrul revealed in his first article that Vincent had agreed to appear for the defence. Bhoyrul was then interviewed by the police and made a statement. He was a potential witness in the Grobbelaar trial. Vincent was arrested on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice and charged. The jury at the Grobbelaar trial was told to assume his guilt. At Vincent's trial no evidence was offered and he was acquitted. In articles on two Sundays in October, Sunday Business gave details of the charges against him. Following these publications the Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS's South East Area wrote to Rubython seeking confirmation that no further details other than those per-mitted by law would be published. Rubython agreed, but another article related to the trials appeared. The applicant then obtained an interlocutory injunction restraining the respondents from publishing further material relating to the forthcoming trial, save for a fair and accurate report of proceedings. Permanent undertakings in identical terms were subsequently given. The issue for the court was whether the respondents were in breach of the 'strict liability rule' contained in s1 and s2 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, particularly whether s2(2) had been satisfied: 'The strict liability rule applies only to a publication which creates a substantial risk that the course of justice in the proceedings will be seriously impeded or prejudiced,' or whether the allegation of common law contempt had been proved.