Reporter faces jail for protecting sources

A case of major importance to the media is now pending in the High Court. It centres on the rights of journalists to protect sources of information.

Former Newcastle-based Journal reporter Dani Garavelli, who now works for The Scotsman, faces a prison sentence for failing to reveal her sources of information after being subpoenaed to give evidence at police disciplinary proceedings. And the High Court has paved the way for committal proceedings to go ahead against Garavelli.

The court also imposed strict conditions on its decision to grant Leicestershire Chief Constable Keith Povey permission to take the committal moves. It ruled that he must provide written justification for demanding the information Garavelli refuses to give.

At the hearing, which gave the go-ahead for committal moves, counsel for Povey, Patrick Moloney, of 1 Brick Court chambers, told Lord Justice Beldam and Mr Justice Buxton that Garavelli was subpoenaed to give evidence by Superintendent Martin Cooper. Cooper faced disciplinary proceedings brought by the chief constable of Northumbria and conducted by Povey.

But Moloney said she had refused to reveal sources of information and in these circumstances Povey sought to have her jailed for contempt.

Lord Justice Beldam said the court considered a prima facie case had been made out for an application for committal.

But he ordered that Povey must file a sworn statement giving detailed reasons why he thought it was in the interests of justice that Garavelli should answer the questions she had been asked.

He said the court had imposed that condition because of the complete absence on the face of the documents of the reasons for asking for the information Garavelli had refused. The court also ordered that Garavelli should be granted legal aid.