The Times has said that it will appeal after it was fined Â£15,000 in the high court for contempt of court over two articles published last December about jury dissent in a child manslaughter case. One of two dissenting jurors in the trial of Keran Henderson last autumn provided information to the Times was also fined Â£500 and also intends to appeal to the House of Lords.
In a contempt of court case brought by the attorney general, Baroness Scotland the high court last week found the newspaper and the jury guilty of disclosing the “secrets of the jury room”. Section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act bans disclosure of “votes cast, statements made, opinions expressed or arguments advanced” by members of a jury in their deliberations.
Lawyers for the Times said the newspaper respected the court’s judgment on the contempt issue, but an apology would ring “hollow” because it did not agree with the court and would attempt to appeal to the law lords. They stated that there had been no damage to the administration of justice, no individual juror was identified and no individual’s opinions were disclosed. They said the articles were written in good faith, after taking legal advice, on a matter of public importance, which was the heavy reliance placed on expert medical evidence in “shaken baby” cases.
The defendants argued unsuccessfully that contempt proceedings could not be justified in this case in the light of article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees everyone the right to freedom of expression, subject to exceptions such as the need to maintain the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
Lord Justice Pill, who heard the case alongside Mr Justice Sweeney, said the court acknowledged those mitigating factors, but had to impose penalties “sufficient to mark the seriousness of breaches of section 8 and to deter others from following the example of this juror and this newspaper”.