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Sky News facing contempt case over kidnap report

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The UK attorney general has today won permission to launch contempt of court proceedings against Sky News over the broadcaster's alleged breach of a media injunction.

The court order in question covered reporting of the story of Paul and Rachel Chandler, the Kent couple who were held captive by Somali pirates for 13 months.

The media was blocked from publishing details of the couple's "health and welfare" prior to them being freed on November 14, 2010.

The Chandlers had been sailing a yacht near the Seychelles when their vessel was hijacked by pirates, leading them to be kidnapped and held for ransom.

Sky claims that it "scrupulously observed the terms of the injunction", but also admitted that it "followed the spirit, if not the letter" of the order.

At the time, lawyers representing the Chandlers obtained the court order over fears that their lives could be put in danger by the media reporting their capture.

Sky News is alleged to have breached the injunction on the day of their release around a year ago from Somalia, leading attorney general Dominic Grieve QC to seek permission at the High Court to bring contempt proceedings.

A spokesperson for Grieve said in a statement that Sky broadcast details of the Chandler's release before they had left Somalia and reached "a place of safety".

The attorney general has already brought various contempt cases against the media this year, including one against various newspapers for coverage of the arrest of Christopher Jefferies, the landlord of the murdered landscape architect Jo Yeates.

The Mirror was fined £50,000 and The Sun £18,000 for their coverage of the arrest of Jefferies, who was later cleared on any involvement in the murder.

Press Gazette notes that Grieve has now launched more contempt proceedings against the media in his 18 months in the role than his predecessors did in the entire previous decade.

Former attorney general Lord Goldsmith QC brought just two media contempt cases during his six years in office to June 2007, while Baroness Scotland of Asthal brought only one case during her nearly three-year term.

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