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Attorney General speaks at City University London

by Hollie Jenkins

no alt setThe Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC MP, delivered a special guest lecture hosted by the Department of Journalism at City University London on 1 December 2011, providing a rare insight into his involvement with Contempt of Court cases and issues related to freedom of the press.

During the event, the Attorney General said that he sees his role as both a defender of press freedom and a key player in the fair administration of justice.

Commentators have noted that the Attorney General has launched three prosecutions this year, demonstrating a more active role in Contempt of Court cases than his predecessors, who initiated just three cases over the last 10 years.

Reflected on his role he said: "I have been concerned, even before I was appointed Attorney General, at what I perceived to be the increasing tendency of the press to test the boundaries of what was acceptable over the reporting of criminal cases.

"At times it appeared to me the press had lost any sense of internal constraint and felt able, indeed entitled, to print what they wished, shielded by the right of 'freedom of expression' without any of the concomitant responsibilities."

He also issued a warning to journalists and MPs in relation to parliamentary privilege and injunctions saying: "It is not for a Parliamentarian to ignore the careful and measured approach of a Judge when deciding if an injunction should be granted....and it is still an open question as to whether something said in Parliament in breach of a court order may be repeated in the press."

The audience also heard Grieves' thoughts on the high profile case relating to Mr Christopher Jefferies, the innocent man detained by police investigating the murder of Joanna Yeates.

Dominic Grieve QC MP at City University London

The Attorney General said that the ruling of courts that The Sun and The Daily Mirror had been in contempt of court in their reporting, "reinforced the message that proceedings are active from the time of arrest. Caution, not to say common sense, must therefore come into play when reporting on a case involving an arrested suspect - a suspect who may never be charged."

The Attorney General also spoke in detail about how contempt of court can apply on the internet, saying: "There is a certain belief that so long as something is published in cyberspace there is no need to respect the laws of contempt or libel. This is mistaken."

The Attorney General said it was a privilege to share his experiences with students, academics, high profile legal practitioners and members of the public at City University London.

"Such meetings provide a useful forum for me to hear from practitioners and students and to understand better the pressures faced both by those editing stories and those providing legal advice," he said.

You can find a full copy of the lecture text here.

View the lecture below.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.