Recordings in the case of an alleged blackmail plot involving a member of the Royal Family will be heard only by a restricted number of reporters, a High Court judge ruled yesterday.
Lawyers had argued that the recordings, one of which formed part of the alleged plot and the second of which featured a meeting between the two defendants and an undercover policeman, should only be heard in secret.
The trial of Ian Strachan, 31, who was brought up in Aberdeen, and Sean McGuigan, 40, both of London, is due to take place at the Old Bailey next month.
Strachan, a former pupil of Aberdeen Grammar School, and McGuigan, both deny making an unwarranted demand of £50,000 with menaces “from a male” between January 1 and September 12 last year.
They were arrested after an undercover sting operation by police at the Park Lane Hilton hotel.
Yesterday, High Court judge Mr Justice Cooke, sitting at Reading Crown Court, heard that the recordings, a computer file and a DVD, could not be edited to remove the victim’s name and must be played in full to the jury.
But he ruled yesterday that while the public would be excluded during the playing of the recordings, four named members of the press would be allowed to remain in court.
A court order banning them from naming the royal, a junior member of the family who was not directly involved, and other witnesses, remains in place.
The identity of the reporters would be agreed between the press and lawyers in the case, he ruled.
Mr Justice Cooke said: “I am entirely satisfied that it is necessary that there be some restrictions on those who can be present. This is necessary otherwise those who are blackmailed could not be willing to come forward.”
He said that as the matter would inevitably attract public interest, should the victim’s identify be revealed in open court, “it might well result in publication on the internet”.
It would be impossible, he said, to identify the source of such a leak and take action against the perpetrator.
He added a number of witnesses would be permitted not to give their name during the case and would be referred to only by letters of the alphabet to avoid identifying the victim by association.