Attorney general wins permission to pursue the action in the high court over coverage of Levi Bellfield's conviction
The Daily Mail and Daily Mirror will face contempt proceedings over their coverage of Levi Bellfield's conviction for the murder and abduction of schoolgirl Milly Dowler, after the attorney general won permission to pursue the action in the high court.
Two judges at the high court in London gave the go-ahead on Tuesday to Dominic Grieve QC to bring the action against the two papers.
Bellfield was convicted on 23 June this year of abducting and murdering the 13-year-old. The jury still had to reach a verdict on a second charge – that the day before he snatched Milly from a street in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in 2002, he had attempted to abduct Rachel Cowles, then aged 11.
But on 24 June the trial judge, Mr Justice Wilkie, discharged the jury from returning a verdict on the charge relating to Cowles, alleging the publicity following Bellfield's murder conviction was so prejudicial that the jury could no longer be expected to consider it.
Lord Justice Moore-Bick and Mr Justice Bean heard arguments on behalf of the two newspapers that their publications would not have created a "substantial risk of serious prejudice".
But the judges, who only had to decide at this stage whether Grieve has an "arguable" case against them, granted permission.
A full hearing of the contempt allegations will now be held at a date to be fixed.
Grieve has moved increasingly to clamp down on alleged transgressions by the media in high-profile cases. In July, the Sun and the Mirror were fined £18,000 and £50,000 respectively for contempt of court for their coverage of Christopher Jefferies, who was entirely innocent of any involvement in the murder of Joanna Yeates.
Sky News is also facing contempt charges after the attorney general won permission on Monday to bring proceedings over the broadcaster's coverage of Paul and Rachel Chandler, the British couple who were held hostage for over a year by Somali pirates.