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Friday, 19 April, 2002, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Newspaper fined for contempt
Jonathan Woodgate
Woodgate was eventually found guilty of affray
The Sunday Mirror has been ordered to pay 175,000 in fines and costs for a story that caused the collapse of the first trial of Leeds United stars Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer.

The newspaper was heavily criticised by two senior judges for printing an interview with the father of assault victim Sarfraz Najeib, while the jury considered its verdict.

Lord Justice Kennedy, sitting with Mrs Justice Rafferty in London, said the timing and content of the article had been "such as to imperil a lengthy, expensive, high-profile and difficult trial at a difficult time".

Lee Bowyer
Lee Bowyer: Eventually cleared of all charges

Mr Justice Poole stopped the trial in Hull and ordered a second hearing for the Leeds players and their co-defendants because he feared the Sunday Mirror story could prejudice the jury.

Woodgate was eventually found guilty of affray, but not guilty of grievous bodily harm. Mr Bowyer was cleared of all charges.

The newspaper's parent company Trinity Mirror said it had already apologised for running the story and accepted the judgement as "fair and proportionate".


In the interview Mr Najeib argued the motive behind the attack on his son was racist.

Earlier the judge had stressed to the jury that the racist allegation was not part of the prosecution's case.

Lord Justice Kennedy said the newspaper's decision had been "expensive and traumatic for the complainant, his family, witnesses and defendants alike".

After hearing Trinity Mirror would be fined 75,000 plus around 100,000 in legal costs, group legal director Paul Vickers said: "We accept that we deserved to be punished."

Trial costs
First trial: 1.113m
Retrial: 1.125m
Estimated by attorney general
He added: "We apologised a year ago and repeated that to the court yesterday.

"We consider this fine of 75,000, particularly when you take it together with costs, quite a high sum but we accept it is fair and proportionate.

"We are also very pleased that the court did accept the very good record of the Mirror and that they have not been found guilty of contempt for over 50 years."

Broken nose

At the second trial in December Lee Bowyer was cleared and team-mate Jonathan Woodgate ordered to do 100 hours community service, after being found guilty of affray.

Sarfraz Najeib
Sarfraz Najeib suffered serious injuries
Woodgate's friend Paul Clifford, 22, was found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm and affray and jailed for six years.

Another friend, Neale Caveney, 22, was found guilty of affray, but cleared of grievous bodily harm and was also ordered to do 100 hours community service.

The attack, in Leeds city centre in January 2000, left Mr Najeib unconscious with a broken nose and cheekbone and fractured leg.

The BBC's Judith Moloney
"The Sunday Mirror has said from the start that this was a serious error of judgement"
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