Solicitor-General takes unprecedented step in Agnew trial

By Jeremy Rees

The Solicitor-General has taken the unprecedented step of telling the Herald website to remove archived stories about the man charged with killing deaf woman Emma Agnew.

The Solicitor-General has told the Herald website that two articles, one more than two years old, now constitute contempt of court and should be removed.

Liam James Reid, 35, formerly known as Julian Edgecombe, was charged with the murder of 20-year-old Emma Agnew on November 15. Her funeral is to be held tomorrow.

Two articles - one from 2005, the other from 2006 - on the Herald website contained information about Julian Edgecombe.

Esther Watt, the Assistant Crown Counsel for the Crown Law Office, wrote to saying the arrest of Liam Reid/Julian Edgecombe means his case is now before the courts and that continuing to carry the historic articles constitutes the serious charge of contempt of court.

The request opens significant questions of law, especially whether the courts can force the removal of information that has been in the public domain for some time.

It also raises new legal issues for internet publishing. For example, should a news website with its extensive archiving and search functions, be treated differently from a newspaper where back copies are kept publicly available in libraries but searching for stories is more difficult.

The Herald website removed the two articles over the weekend pending a full analysis by our lawyers and further discussions with the Solicitor-General on Monday.

The issue comes just days after it was revealed that the Solicitor-General is investigating Trade Me after one of its online discussion threads published alleged personal details of Liam Reid's background, which could be in contempt of court.

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