Pre-trial publicity

1. The courts are generally very reluctant to halt a prosecution because of pre-trial publicity. However, if the publicity has been such that a fair trial is not possible, the proceedings may be stayed.

2. If the defence argue that pre-trial publicity has amounted to an abuse of process, the following considerations as to how pre-trial publicity may affect a jury have to be taken into account by the court 1:

  • the court hearing and consideration of the evidence in the case are likely to have far greater impact than recollections of past media reporting;
  • this impact can be reinforced by warnings and directions by the judge to the jury as and when appropriate;
  • the jury system is based upon the assumption that the jury will follow the judge's instructions.

3. The principal safeguards of the objective impartiality of a jury lie in the trial process and the conduct of the trial by the judge. However, if the risk of prejudice is so grave that, whatever measures are chosen, the trial process could not reasonably be expected to remove the risk, the proceedings should be stayed.


1. Montgomery v H M Advocate and another; [2001] 2 W.L.R. 779. Back

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Updated 2021-08-27