Attorney-General v English: HL 1981

The risk of impediment or prejudice to a trial from a publication has to be assessed at the date of publication. ‘Substantial risk’ in section 2(2) means a risk which is more than remote. Lord Diplock said: ‘Next for consideration is the concatenation in the subsection of the adjective ‘substantial’ and the adverb ‘seriously,’ the former to describe the degree of risk, the latter to describe the degree of impediment or prejudice to the course of justice. ‘Substantial’ is hardly the most apt word to apply to ‘risk’ which is a noumenon. In combination I take the two words to be intended to exclude a risk that is only remote.’ and ‘If, as in the instant case and probably in most other criminal trials upon indictment, it is the outcome of the trial or the need to discharge the jury without proceeding to a verdict that is put at risk, there can be no question that that which in the course of justice is put at risk is as serious as anything could be.’
Lord Diplock said: ‘Trial by newspaper or, as it should be more compendiously expressed today, trial by the media, is not to be permitted in this country.’


Lord Diplock


[1983] 1 AC 116, [1982] 2 All ER 903, [1982] Crim LR 743, (1982) 75 Cr App R 302, [1982] 3 WLR 278


Contempt of Court Act 1981 2(2)


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedHM Attorney General v Express Newspapers Admn 25-Nov-2004
The claimant sought an order for the committal of the respondent for contempt in having breached an order to restrict their naming of a footballer arrested on allegations of serious sexual assaults. The claim had not gone forward.
Held: ‘ . . . .
CitedAttorney General v Random House Group Ltd QBD 15-Jul-2009
The Attorney-General sought to restrain the publication of a book which she said would prejudice the defendants in a forthcoming criminal trial. The publisher said that a restraint would be a disproportionate interference in its Article 10 rights. . .
CitedHM Attorney General v Yaxley-Lennon QBD 9-Jul-2019
Application by Her Majesty’s Attorney General for an order committing the respondent to prison for contempt of court. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Contempt of Court, Media

Updated: 19 July 2022; Ref: scu.220562