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Why a New Yorker Story on a Notorious Murder Case Is Blocked in Britain

WorldWhy a New Yorker Story on a Notorious Murder Case Is Blocked in Britain

The New Yorker magazine published a 13,000-word article on Monday about one of Britain’s biggest recent criminal trials, that of the neonatal nurse Lucy Letby, who was convicted last year of the murder of seven babies.

The article, by the staff writer Rachel Aviv, poses substantial questions about the evidence relied on in court. And it raises the possibility that Ms. Letby, vilified in the media after her conviction, may be the victim of a grave miscarriage of justice.

But, to the consternation of many readers in Britain, the article can’t be opened on a regular browser there, and most news outlets available in Britain aren’t describing what is in it.

The New Yorker deliberately blocked the article from readers in Britain because of strict reporting restrictions that apply to live court cases in England. A publication that flouts those rules risks being held “in contempt of court,” which can be punished with a fine or prison sentence.

Neither The New Yorker nor its parent company, Condé Nast, responded to requests for comment on Thursday. Earlier in the week, a spokesperson for the magazine told Press Gazette, the British trade publication, “To comply with a court order restricting press coverage of Lucy Letby’s ongoing trial, The New Yorker has limited access to Rachel Aviv’s article for readers in the United Kingdom.”

Under English law, restrictions apply to the reporting of live court proceedings, to prevent a jury’s being influenced by anything outside the court hearing. After Ms. Letby’s sentencing in August last year, those restrictions were lifted. But they were reimposed in September, when the public prosecutor for England and Wales announced that it would seek a retrial on one charge of attempted murder on which the jury had not been able to reach a verdict. “There should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings,” the prosecutor stated. The retrial is set to begin in June.

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