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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April 2005, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Terror trial had blanket news ban
Metropolitan Police photos of chemicals and equipment for the production of poisons and explosives recovered from the London flat of Kamel Bourgass
The press was unable to print details or photos of evidence
The trials of a man who killed a police officer and plotted a terrorist attack in the UK would have been among the biggest news stories of recent years.

But the media was banned from reporting on Kamel Bourgass' two cases until they ended to ensure both trials were fair.

His life sentence last June for killing Detective Constable Stephen Oake would have hit the headlines if the ban was not in place to protect the next trial.

On Wednesday the trial for planning to spread the poison ricin finally ended.

Before that, the last stories to contain Bourgass' name were published in early 2003 - when the blanket court restrictions were introduced.

Soldiers wearing gas masks prepare to enter the house in Manchester where Det Con Stephen Oake was killed
Reporting restrictions were in place for more than two years
Such wide-ranging restrictions on reporting such potentially high-profile cases are rare - and some observers have criticised their scale.

Last summer, Bourgass' three-month trial for stabbing the officer took place in virtual secrecy.

That was because the court felt the jury in the later ricin case may have been influenced if they knew about the other accusation and subsequent conviction.

Any breach could have landed the offending media outlet in court on contempt charges.

A spokesman from the Office of the Attorney General would not discuss the Bourgass case specifically.

But he said: "In individual cases, a Contempt of Court Act order may be imposed by the court to postpone the reporting of matters arising in civil or criminal proceedings to protect either those proceedings or other proceedings.

The order was very wide-ranging for what has been one of the most sensational trials in recent history
Mark Stephens
Media lawyer
"It is for the court to decide if an order should be made, usually on the application of the defence or prosecution. The attorney general is not usually involved at this stage.

"Breach of an order is in contempt of court, and proceedings for contempt could be brought by the attorney general."

But media lawyer Mark Stephens, of Finers, Stephens, Innocent, said the ban had been "over broad".

"The order was very wide-ranging for what has been one of the most sensational trials in recent history - there has been almost no coverage," he said.

'Draconian orders'

"Now this is over, we will be in a better position to judge the effectiveness of these orders and whether they were indeed necessary.

"We do have a knee-jerk reaction where there is anything to do with terrorism and the press, to put in place draconian orders."

He said it was "unfortunate" the public had been ignorant of the cases and said such restrictions should be "used sparingly and as a matter of last resort".

Trials that are linked, such as the two Bourgass cases, could be reported in such a way that "the jury that comes along looks at the cases separately", he said.

"What you do is to create a construct where you make clear that there is no link between the trials in the reporting."




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