Today, the mug of “toxic terrorist” Kamel Bourgass is on the front page of every national newspaper in Britain.
Bourgass, most people learned today, was convicted last year murdering Detective Constable Stephen Oake during his 2003 arrest in Manchester. He was also convicted, more recently, of conspiring to cause a public nuisance through the use of poisons and explosives as the ringleader of a group of people seeking to make ricin in a crude laboratory in Wood Green, north London. The eight other suspects arrested in connection with the Wood Green plot were not convicted.
The trial has been going on for around two years, but is only being reported now, at the sentencing stage, because the coverage of Bourgass’s trial (for the murder of the policeman) was banned under the Contempt of Court Act. The concern was that it would prejudice the ricin plot trial.
It’s a less dramatic echo of the situation in North America, where American blogs are defying a Canadian court order and reporting on the Adscam case. The borderless Internet is undermining courts’ ability to enforce gag orders.
Acccording to the Evening Standard, the reporting ban might have lasted even longer than it has because defence counsel Michel Massih QC had asked the court to maintain the gag in case the Oake murder is appealed. But Justice Penry Davey lifted restrictions in the public interest.
Given all this, there is remarkably little in the papers about the reporting ban itself. Only the Scotsman seems to be running with a Press Association story about the reporting bans.
The legal debates over publication bans are interesting stuff.
Are the rights of defendents better served by a regime of secrecy to prevent prejudicing future jurors or by a system of open justice where the public can observe an ongoing trial to ensure the fair adminstration of justice by the state? A related topic is whether television cameras should be allowed in court. Discuss.