The Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC is launching a High Court action against the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror over coverage of the conviction of Milly Dowler’s killer Levi Bellfield.
Bellfield was convicted in June of the 13-year-old schoolgirl’s kidnapping and murder, but the jury had yet to reach a verdict on a second charge – the attempted abduction of 11-year-old Rachel Cowles a day before he murdered Dowler in 2002.
Mr Justice Willkie said an “avalanche” of publicity over Bellfield’s conviction had left him with no option but to discharge the jury from considering the earlier alleged abduction attempt.
The court today heard arguments from Associated Newspaper’s counsel, Five Paper Buildings’ Jonathan Caplan QC, who said that press coverage would not have created a “substantial risk of serious prejudice”.
He added that it was “an unusual case where jurors knew he had committed other murders”.
However, 6 King’s Bench Walk’s David Perry QC, acting for the Attorney General, said that both newspapers published articles that “ vilified the defendant by reference to material that was not before the jury as a result of anything that been said in the trial”.
Announcing the decision to give Grieve the go-ahead to bring contempt of court proceedings against the newspapers, Lord Justice Moore-Bick said that there was a “real prospect of the application succeeding”.
A full hearing of the contempt allegations will be held at a later date.
David Perry has been instructed by The Treasury Solicitors on behalf of Dominic Grieve QC. Reynolds Porter Chamberlain (RPC) partner Jaron Lewis instructed Jonathan Caplan QC to act for Associated Newspapers – owner of the Daily Mail.
RPC is also representing The Mirror Group, which owns the Daily Mirror. The firm instructed Blackstone Chambers’ Kate Gallafent to act for the newspaper.