HM Attorney-General v Associated Newspapers Ltd and Others: HL 4 Feb 1994

Following the acquittal of a prominent politician on a charge of conspiracy to murder, the New Statesman magazine published an article, based on an interview with one of the jurors, which gave an account of significant parts of the jury’s deliberations. It was submitted on behalf of the publisher, the editor and the journalist that the subsection was intended to apply to direct contact by or with the jury, and that three types of conduct only were prohibited: obtaining information from a member of the jury, disclosing the information as a member of the jury and soliciting information from a member of the jury. The issue was whether it also prohibited publication of the information in a newspaper. The argument that the word ‘disclose’ had a narrower and more restricted meaning than that was rejected.
Held: The appeal failed. The restriction on disclosure of information about the deliberations of a jury applies to and includes information innocently received, and its publication is an offence. The House sought to identify the mischief which the Act was designed to remedy, drawing attention to the Report of the Departmental Committee on Jury Service ‘we agree with those of our witnesses who argued that if such disclosures were to be made, particularly to the Press, jurors would no longer feel free to express their opinions frankly when the verdict was under discussion, for fear that what they said later might be made public.’

Lord Widgery LCJ: ‘The evidence before us shows that for a number of years the publication of jury room secrets has occurred on numerous occasions. To many of those disclosures no exception could be taken because from a study of them it would not be possible to identify the persons concerned in the trials. In these cases, jury secrets were revealed in the main for the laudable purpose of informing would-be jurors what to expect when summoned for jury service. Thus, it is not possible to contend that every case of post-trial activity of the kind with which we are concerned must necessarily amount to a contempt.
Looking at this case as a whole, we have come to the conclusion that the article in the ‘New Statesman’ does not justify the title of contempt of court. That does not mean that we would not wish to see restrictions on the publication of such an article because we would. But our duty is to say what the law is today and to see whether today the activity in question is a contempt of court. We are unable to say that it is and we would therefore refuse the application.’
Lord Lowry discussed the 1981 Act: ‘the mischief which was thought to need a remedy is seen to have included publication of the forbidden particulars as well as their disclosure by individual jurors, which confirms the plain and ordinary meaning of ‘disclosure’ as the correct meaning in section 8.’
Lord Lowry, Lord Widgery LCJ
Gazette 02-Mar-1994, Independent 09-Feb-1994, Times 04-Feb-1994, [1994] 2 AC 238, [1994] UKHL 1, [1994] 1 All ER 556, [1994] COD 275, [1994] 2 WLR 277, (1994) 99 Cr App R 131
Bailii
Contempt of Court Act 1981 8
Citing:
Appeal fromHM Attorney General v Associated Newspapers Ltd and Others QBD 9-Dec-1992
A newspaper was held to have been in contempt of court for publishing details of the deliberations of a jury, even though it had not solicited the information. Beldam LJ said of the word ‘disclosure’: ‘It is a word wide enough to encompass the . .
Gazette 09-Dec-92

Cited by:
Appealed toHM Attorney General v Associated Newspapers Ltd and Others QBD 9-Dec-1992
A newspaper was held to have been in contempt of court for publishing details of the deliberations of a jury, even though it had not solicited the information. Beldam LJ said of the word ‘disclosure’: ‘It is a word wide enough to encompass the . .
Gazette 09-Dec-92
CitedRegina v Connor and another; Regina v Mirza HL 22-Jan-2004
The defendants sought an enquiry as to events in the jury rooms on their trials. They said that the secrecy of a jury’s deliberations did not fit the human right to a fair trial. In one case, it was said that jurors believed that the defendant’s use . .
[2004] UKHL 2, Times 23-Jan-04, [2004] 2 WLR 201, [2004] 1 AC 1118, [2004] HRLR 11, 16 BHRC 279, [2004] 2 Cr App R 8, [2004] 1 All ER 925
CitedAttorney General v Scotcher HL 19-May-2005
Following a trial, a juror wrote to the defendant’s mother to say that other jury members had not considered the case in a proper manner. He had been given written advice that he was not free to discuss a case with anyone. He appealed his conviction . .
[2005] 1WLR 1825, Times 20-May-05, [2005] UKHL 36, [2005] 3 All ER 1
CitedHM Attorney General v Seckerson and Times Newspapers Ltd Admn 13-May-2009
ag_seckersonAdmn2009
The first defendant had been foreman of a jury in a criminal trial. He was accused of disclosing details of the jury’s votes and their considerations with concerns about the expert witnesses to the second defendant. The parties disputed the extent . .
[2009] EMLR 371, [2009] EWHC 1023 (Admin), [2009] EMLR 20
Appeal fromAssociated Newspapers Ltd v United Kingdom ECHR 30-Nov-1994
The newspaper said that a finding against it of contempt of court for publishing material derived from a jury’s deliberations infringed its rights of free speech.
Held: The complaint was declared inadmissible. ‘The Commission agrees with the . .
24770/94, [1994] ECHR 58
CitedSeckerson and Times Newspapers Ltd v The United Kingdom ECHR 24-Jan-2012
The first applicant had been chairman of a jury and had expressed his concerns about their behaviour to the second applicant who published them. They were prosecuted under the 1981 Act. They had said that no details of the deliberations had been . .
33510/10, [2012] ECHR 241, 32844/10

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 18 December 2020; Ref: scu.81404