BBC Newsnight faces gag over Diana inquest debate

Pressure is being put on BBC's Newsnight programme not to broadcast its debate on whether the ongoing Diana inquest is a complete waste of time. The issue is currently being debated on their website and is due to be aired as part of the programme tonight. As Times online reports, Lord Justice Scott Baker's office is understood to have contacted Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General airing their fears that the programme could potentially prejudice the inquest.

In absence of an injunction the Attorney General might not have the legal authority to prevent the programme but could put pressure on the BBC to pull the segment.

As an official inquest it is still subject to the laws of contempt and if the programme could be deemed to pose a realistic and serious threat insofar as it would undermine the credibility of the Coroner's Court and any verdict it delivers then that could arguably give grounds for an injunction BUT the counter argument here would be that the debate Newsnight is airing merely reflects public sentiment and as such would not be capable of undermining the inquest.

The other option would be to construct the debate around the wider context of whether more than 10 years on we should still be digging up the past. If one avoided specific reference to aspects or credibility of the inquiry then one could argue that it would not be contemptuous as it is merely a discussion of public affairs - an exception under contempt law.

All will be revealed when the programme airs later tonight.

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