After a false start yesterday, Belinda McKenzie was convicted this morning on charges of contempt of court, and sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for two years.
She also signed a written undertaking for life that she would not publish anything about the Hampstead matter, either online or off, and that she would remove all material currently posted online about the subject.
The charges related to an incident on 10 December 2018, during the trial of Sabine McNeill, in which Belinda published a Facebook post identifying protected witnesses in the McNeill trial. Belinda was arrested in court, following a pointed warning two days earlier by HHJ Sally Cahill QC that anybody violating the reporting restriction (Section 46 of Youth Justice & Criminal Evidence Act 1999), whether by email or other means, even if it were only to one person, would be committing contempt of court.
At that time, Belinda appeared shaken by the experience, and apologised to the court from the dock, while promising to remove the offending post immediately.
Her contempt hearing had originally been scheduled for the morning of Thursday, 10 January, but was adjourned when Belinda failed to attend, stating that she was suffering from “dangerously high blood pressure” and that she would be seeing her doctor at 11 a.m.
While they waited to hear what would happen with that day’s hearing, members of the public reported hearing Belinda’s barrister on the phone at about 10:15, telling somebody, “I’m telling you, you will never get nine years!”
Shortly thereafter, Judge Cahill stated that she would require an email or note from Belinda’s physician, verifying that she was indeed ill. Judge Cahill said she would require this by 11:30 a.m., and adjourned until then.
When court resumed at 11:30, Belinda’s counsel told the court that his client was feeling a little better, but was waiting to see her doctor.
We will update with further details on today’s proceedings as they become available.
UPDATED: 11 January, 3:55 p.m