Judgment has been handed down this week in the proceedings brought against Condé Nast by the Attorney General for contempt of Court, arising from an article in men's magazine GQ about the phone hacking trial of Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson (and other News UK employees). 

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, sitting with Mrs Justice Nicola Davies (who has heard some media cases in the past), said that the article by US journalist Michael Wolff created a substantial risk that the trial would be seriously impeded or prejudiced, which is the relevant test under the Contempt of Court Act 1981.  The thrust of the article was that Rupert Murdoch and other senior News executives were aware of the phone hacking and had a "hidden agenda" at the trial. 

The Court found that the article "plainly implied that Mr Rupert Murdoch was a participant in the phone hacking, that the defendants must have been aware of the phone hacking, that the defence was being funded by him and conducted on the defendants’ instructions so as to protect his interests but in a way that might also secure their acquittal".

There will be a further hearing to decide on the penalty to be paid by Condé Nast.

In 2011 the Daily Mirror was fined £50,000 and The Sun £18,000 for their coverage of the police investigation into the murder in Bristol of Rachel Yeates.  The following year the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror were each fined £10,000 for their coverage of the Milly Dowler trial.

The case is a useful reminder that there are limits to media reporting in the context of investigations and prosecutions.