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    Thursday, 12 July 2007

    Role of the Attorney General: altered incentives regarding contempt allegations?

    One of the long-standing problems regarding the law of contempt (quite apart from the rights and wrongs of its substance), has been the perception that the Attorney General (and Government more generally) is often politically loathe to upset the red-top newspapers by bringing any action. The result is that the apparently stringent British law is rendered a somewhat different beast by under/non-application (on which see this from the New York Times).

    In this regard, something that slipped under my radar in the last week may have an important bearing. In its Green paper on the Governance of Britain, Brown's new government has promised to review the role of the Attorney General. Concerns arise because the Attorney General acts both as a Government Minister (chief legal adviser), and as the guardian of
    the public interest in a number of different areas (including the bringing of contempt proceedings). It is easy to see how any incumbent may confuse or conflate the public interest with that of the government of the day. A consultation is promised soon, and the Government has also stated its intention to take seriously the views of the Commons Committee on Constitutional Affairs that has been undertaking its own review.

    1 comment:

    flylse said...

    I am a little bemused by the NY report. if the names of the subject of a crime investigation have been published, why not the photos? does it make any difference. I remember the trial on the alleged raping of a 17-year-old girl by seven English Premiership footballers. The judge had asked media not to name any of the suspect footballers to ruin the future trial. Even the broadcasters like BskyB had to take care not to carry any football chants that name those alledgedly involved. But the NY report only stressed that no photo of the suspect terrorist should be published. In my view, if the name has been published, it has posed the risk that the future trial could be ruined by the premature media trial.