On Monday 29th June the CPS announced that on the previous Saturday 27th June Lord Janner had been charged with 22 counts of Buggery and Indecent Assault against 9 different male complainants who were all minors at the time the offences were alleged to have taken place.
On 7th August at Westminster Magistrates’ Court Lord Janner, or more likely his legal representatives, are due to appear and the judicial process will be under way.
The most likely first legal challenge Lord Janner’s representatives will attempt will be to claim that due to months of adverse and prominent publicity in the MSM (and years in the AM) their client would be unlikely to receive a fair trial and so the charges should be dropped. However, David Perry QC would have taken into consideration the possibility that such a legal appeal would be made when he overturned the original decision of the DPP not to charge Lord Janner due to his health and so I doubt such a legal gambit would be successful.
What is less certain is whether some material that might be published following the CPS decision to charge Lord Janner might be considered prejudicial to a fair trial. Regardless, what is without doubt is that anyone who does publish potentially prejudicial material could find themselves in contempt of court which can carry a 2 year prison sentence if found guilty.
The CPS statement was clear;
“As there are now active criminal proceedings nothing should be said, commented on, or shared online which may prejudice those.”
This covers comments on Twitter, Facebook, Forums, and comments left on blogs like The Needle. When you leave a comment you are the publisher and you are responsible.
This case has become unusually complicated primarily due to the publicity that followed the original decision by the DPP not to prosecute Lord Janner. When this decision was taken broadcast, print, and online media could publish allegations and speculations on this case after considering the risks of civil litigation but free from the threat of criminal proceedings. This has now changed.
Professional journalists have rudimentary legal training and if part of a media organisation, access to legal advice. The chances are that you do not and some of the issues like for example, past CPS and police failures related to this case that you were free to speculate about before charging might be considered prejudicial now.
I will be taking an extremely cautious approach to allowing comments on The Needle regarding the Janner case from this point onward.
Lord Janner’s legal representatives will no doubt be scanning the internet looking for examples of prejudicial comments online that they’d hope to use to demonstrate that Lord Janner can not receive a fair hearing.
Whether you’re leaving a comment on Twitter or on a forum please think carefully before doing so and ask yourself this; even if you are willing to risk contempt of court proceedings and a possible 2 year prison sentence, do you want to be the cause of this case failing to proceed ?