The Central Criminal Court will rule next week on the penalty to be imposed on the publishers of the Irish Daily Mail newspaper for contempt of court during the trial of two boys for the murder of schoolgirl Ana Kriégel.
The court will also rule next Monday on whether the editor of the newspaper, Sebastian Hamilton, should be held in contempt. But the court heard the DPP was not continuing with proceedings against the newspaper's court reporter, Helen Bruce, who was described as being "entirely blameless" in the whole matter.
The contempt proceedings arose from a front page article published by the newspaper on 3 May 2019 about CCTV footage shown to the jury in the trial.
The headline and the article contained a quote that said "CCTV footage shows Ana being led to her death". No such words were said in evidence during the showing of the footage and at the time it was the jury's function to decide what the CCTV showed.
The court heard the copy filed by the reporter had been rewritten and added to by someone else despite an instruction from the editor that copy on the trial was to be rewritten only by Ms Bruce.
Senior Counsel Eoin McCullough said the publishers of the newspaper were pleading guilty to contempt and apologised to the court. The CEO of Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Paul Henderson told Mr Justice Paul McDermott that he and the company had made a mistake and were "truly sorry".
Mr McCullough said it was open to the court to apply anything from a nominal penalty up to a fine of €100,000 for an egregious offence. He asked the court to impose a nominal penalty and if that was not accepted, a "moderate" penalty.
He said the company had pleaded guilty and had offered to pay the DPP's costs. He said the mistake arose from a "misdescription" in the newspaper's newslist that was never corrected and a failure to go back to the court reporter after her copy had been changed.
He said it was not a case where there was an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice or to embellish evidence.
Mr McCullough said the trial had not been disrupted and there had been a very prompt apology given to the court. He said the newspaper had a very responsible history of court reporting and had no prior convictions for contempt.
He said processes had been put in place before the trial, even though they didn't work in this case, and new processes had since been put in place. He said matters had been taken very seriously by the newspaper and an investigation had been set up. And finally, he asked the court to bear in mind that the newspaper had already suffered by not being able to report the trial, due to an order made by the judge.
Mr McCullough said Mr Hamilton should not be held in contempt as he had left the office before the court copy was rewritten and had left a clear instruction, which if followed, would have avoided the publication of this material. He said it was a corporate mistake and the proper party to bear responsibility was the corporate entity.
Prosecuting counsel Brendan Grehan said the buck must stop with a person. And there must be a consequence for having the position of editor when something like this happens.
Mr Justice McDermott said he would give his ruling on Monday morning.