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8 UK newspapers pay damages to man arrested but cleared in murder, 2 papers found in contempt
LONDON (AP) ' Eight British newspapers are paying damages to a man arrested and later cleared in a murder investigation after he sued them over articles published during his arrest.
In a separate action, two newspapers were also found in contempt of court for reporting which was found to jeopardize a possible prosecution.
Christopher Jefferies was arrested last year by police investigating the murder of his tenant, Joanna Yeates. He was later released and another man confessed to killing the woman.
Jefferies was not in court Friday for the settlement of libel suits against the publishers of The Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Daily Record, the Daily Express, the Daily Star and The Scotsman. The amount of the damages was not disclosed.
Jefferies' lawyer, Louis Charalambous, said many of the articles suggested there were strong reasons to suspect Jefferies of the murder, and some suggested there were grounds to investigate whether he had committed another unsolved murder in 1974.
"Christopher Jefferies is the latest victim of the regular witch hunts and character assassination conducted by the worst elements of the British tabloid media," Charalambous said.
"Many of the stories published in these newspapers are designed to 'monster' the individual, in flagrant disregard for his reputation, privacy and rights to a fair trial."
In the contempt case, three judges found against The Sun and the Daily Mirror, and assessed fines of 50,000 pounds ($82,000) against the publishers of The Mirror and 18,000 pounds against the publishers of The Sun.
Attorney General Dominic Grieve had initiated contempt proceedings, saying reports in the two newspapers would have posed a "substantial risk" of prejudicing a trial if Jefferies had been charged.
Both newspapers had denied contempt.
One front page headline in the Daily Mirror said "Jo Suspect is Peeping Tom"; another said "Was Killer Waiting In Jo's Flat?"
The Sun had a front page headline, "Jo Suspect 'Scared Kids" and the line "Obsessed by Death" next to a photograph of Jefferies.
Lawyers for Mirror Group Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mirror, and News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, argued that memories would have faded by the time of any trial, and jurors would have followed the directions of a trial judge.