Now ministers try to censor news archives by making website remove stories about criminal past of people facing trial

  • Ministers want to crack down on jurors researching cases
  • Newspapers would remove online archives about those facing trial

By James Slack


Attorney General Dominic Grieve wants the power to order to UK newspapers to remove online archives

Attorney General Dominic Grieve wants the power to order to UK newspapers to remove online archives

Ministers are seeking powers to make newspapers remove from their online archives stories about the criminal past of people facing trial.

Editors fear the move could create a ‘black hole’ in the historical record by striking out previous convictions.

It would also create a scenario where readers viewing overseas-based websites could access information British newspapers were banned from displaying.

The planned new law is part of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill now before parliament.

It has been designed as part of a crackdown on jurors using the internet to research a case, mid-trial.

The jurors will in future face a possible prison sentence if they are caught trying to delve into the defendant’s past.

But, to make it harder for them to do so, Attorney General Dominic Grieve wants the power to issue a so-called ‘take-down’ order to UK newspapers.

Editors who ignored a request would face imprisonment or an unlimited fine.

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said it meant defence lawyers could push for a ‘complete ban’ on every article previously published about a defendant.

He added: ‘The new provisions could have a highly restrictive effect upon the freedom to publish far beyond that intended and ultimately be capable of creating black holes in the historic record.’

Newspapers argue that an online archive is like cuttings in the local library. Jurors would need to deliberately search for material, which will already be a criminal offence.

There are also fears about the cost and time the process would involve, which would hit local newspapers particularly hard.

In theory, the information could be returned to the archive once the trial is complete, but it is feared some papers would not have the resources.

The laws would apply to UK newspapers, but not the likes of the Huffington Post, which receives millions of hits in Britain. Twitter would not be covered, either.

'Black holes': Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said the move 'could have a highly restrictive effect upon the freedom to publish far beyond that intended'

'Black holes': Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said the move 'could have a highly restrictive effect upon the freedom to publish far beyond that intended'

The move comes amid mounting concern at last week’s ruling by the European Court of Justice which gave people the right to demand Google and other search engines remove information about them they do not like.

Google has been deluged with demands from more than 1,000 individuals and organisations from across the continent.

A high proportion are from the UK, with about half of all British requests from criminals, ranging from a politician seeking re-election to stalkers, paedophiles and would-be murderers.

One request was made by the child of a celebrity who has asked for articles about their criminal convictions to be taken down.

It is thought a man who tried to kill members of his family has also asked for links to a news report about the attack to be removed.

The EU court ruled people had the ‘right to be forgotten’ - and could therefore request for articles in Google search results be taken down.

It also ruled Google searches linked to the individual could also be taken down if they tarnish their reputation.

The original case regarding the right to be forgotten was brought by a Spanish man who claimed his privacy had been infringed by an auction notice for his repossessed home.

Under Article 17 of the European Data Protection Regulation, internet users who are mentioned in data have the right to ‘obtain from the controller the erasure of personal data relating to them and the abstention from further dissemination of such data’.

Campaigners have compared the judgment to pulping books in a library. They say it is an alarming attack on freedom of expression and the public’s right to know.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

This is clearly 1984 - rewrite history to match current events

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If I was on a jury and looked something up after my tea, how would anyone know, if I kept mouth shut and not tell everyone about it like the idiots who get caught?

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I wouldn't trust anything coming out of the European Court of Justice or any other European Court. My experience of European Court of Human Rights is that they do not even comply with their own regulations and the quality of the so-called Judges is very questionable. The Attorney General is a Yes man for David Cameron and would not stand up for UK principals if they meant crossing his political master.

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Lots of articles disappear from DM, so I don't see the problem, the pollies love to rewrite history.

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They have to look after criminals, not the victims.

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I wonder who is pushing very hard for this?

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Censorship at its best we are more and more like Nazis and Soviet Russia

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politicians are drooling at the thought of turning Britain into a north Korean style state where those in power can hide their wrongdoing and anyone outing their wrongs face jail you that place you now have to book into as it takes multiple murders to be sent there and where you now get weekends off to kill blind pensioners as a hobby

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Like the recent ECJ decision the people behind this proposal have no idea about the meaning of freedom. We are being led like sheep to the slaughter

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Didn't the Nazis try to change history by altering or destroying archives ???

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