Showtime: Mucca v Macca - no more games as judge threatens them with contempt over press leaks

Round one of the much awaited Mucca v Macca - or Heather Mills-McCartney and Sir Paul McCartney - divorce hearing is up and running in the High Court in London. The judge, Justice Hugh Bennett made a robust opening statement that made it clear to the warring duo that he would tolerate no more nonsense and game playing in relation to this week's hearing. The run up to what is expected to be a four day hearing at the High Court this week has seen both parties - either directly or through proxies - brief the media against each other. Macca didn't need too much help as the media had already taken it upon itself to treat Mucca to venomous character assasination. From a legal point of view one of the low points saw the leaking of supposedly confidential legal papers - mysteriously faxed from a newsagents near Mills' solicitors and the Sun's full on assault on Mills' character. As Mediabeak reported, the weekend press did its best to hit Heather with a final flurry of damaging coverage.

Mr Justice Bennett reminded the parties that whatever they may like to think, the hearing is subject to contempt law and if they engaged in any media briefing or comment while proceedings were ongoing then he would have no hesitation in finding them in contempt of court.

While they argue over the financials - with a settlement at stake that could push new boundaries in terms of amounts awarded - one should not forget that the real victim in their public display of how not to go about divorce in a dignified way is ultimately ignoring the one innocent vitcim in the process - their daughter.

Will they and the media manage to contain themselves long enough to see this week's hearing through without risking contempt? Mediabeak sets the odds of something potentially defamatory or in contempt appearing - probably towards the close of proceedings as fairly probable.

Is it likely the case will settle - yes. They've pushed each other as far as it goes and neither would relish the uncertainty of the court's final award. The one way both parties have of saving some face and showing they can behave in a grown-up manner in concluding their divorce is to settle - that way they may have to compromise but are in control - and control is one thing neither party likes to have taken away from them.

More on today's hearing:

Optimistic coverage:
Timesonline - Magnus Linklater on 'The Path to an amicable divorce'
Telegraph - McCartney and Mills close to deal

Less sign of settlement:
FT - First day in McCartney case
Independent - Mills represents herself in showdown
Guardian - Mr Justice Bennett tries to work it out

Some Mucca v Macca media highlights:
MediaGuardian - Mucca v Macca how much is too much?
Mucca on the warpath on GMTV and ABC news
The Sun - Lady Macca's Porno Past
Observer - Peter Preston - Tabloids Wallow in Lady Mucca's misfortunes

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