LONDON – The publisher of GQ magazine, Conde Nast Publications Ltd., was found guilty of contempt of court in Britain on Wednesday because of its coverage of the News of The World phone hacking trial.
The Lord Chief Justice John Thomas, the head of the judiciary, ruled that an article in the British edition of GQ created a “substantial risk” that the trial of several senior staff at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid would be “seriously impeded or prejudiced.”
The article, written by Michael Wolff, appeared in April 2014, when the trial of former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and others had been running for over three months.
Thomas ruled the article plainly implied that 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.”
He also said the article implied that Brooks was “a disputable woman who would do whatever was required by Mr. Murdoch.”
Jeremy Wright, the Attorney General, said the judgment was rare but the article went against the “most fundamental principle” of Britain’s criminal justice system, that everyone is entitled to a fair trial.
“It is not for the press to decide who is deserving of this protection,” Wright said.
Conde Nast Britain said it was disappointed but accepted the court’s decision.
The News of The World closed in 2011 after revelations of illegal wire-tapping practices at the paper. After a months-long trial, Brooks was acquitted last year of charges relating to phone hacking, bribing officials and obstructing police. Coulson was convicted of conspiring to hack phones and jailed.