SIR NICHOLAS Lyell is to become the first attorney general to face a judicial review of one of his decisions in a landmark case to be heard in the High Court next month.
Lyell is to be challenged over his failure to prosecute newspapers for contempt of court for their coverage of a murder trial. The case has just been listed for 27 and 28 July after an expedited hearing was granted.
Michelle and Lisa Taylor, two sisters who were convicted, then freed on appeal of the murder of another woman, Alison Shaughnessy, say the reports prejudiced their trial.
The Taylors want the attorney general censured so that future defendants will not receive similar treatment.
Mark Stephens, the Taylors' lawyer, believes the decision not to prosecute the newspapers was based on the Government's reluctance to upset supporters in Fleet Street.
He adds: “This will be a hugely important case. It will set new rules about the way the press reports court cases.”
Leave for the judicial review was granted by Mr Justice Schiemann last December. At the time the judge described the case as being one of “landmark constitutional importance”.
The judge also rejected a claim that Lyell's action could not be subject to judicial review because he was the “guardian of the public interest”.
Stephens said that argument was not relevant to modern attorney generals. “He is saying he is above the law. That is not an acceptable argument.”
The Taylors say they are pursuing the case because they do not want other defendants to have their trials prejudiced by press coverage.