Gary Neville is to be referred to Britain’s attorney general over a social media post during the domestic violence trial of his friend and former teammate, Ryan Giggs.
Giggs’s trial was delayed while Judge Hilary Manley and prosecution and defence lawyers discussed the post on Neville’s Instagram account.
Judge Manley continued with the trial but brought the matter up again following the jury failing to reach verdicts and being discharged on Wednesday. She said she had referred the issue to the UK government’s top lawyer.
Judge Manley said: “One other relevant matter I should deal with, on Wednesday, August 10, day three, the prosecution brought to my attention a social media post.
“Both the prosecution and defence agreed with me, in the absence of any comment from the jury, and given my clear direction, the trial could properly continue.
“However, given the author is a person with a high public profile and his social media account has 1.5 million followers, it could be seen to be an attempt to influence ongoing criminal proceedings and could be contempt of court.
“Accordingly, I am referring the matter to the office of the Attorney General for the consideration of a potential prosecution.”
Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the UK Attorney General’s Office, said: “Contempt of court is a serious matter and the Attorney General will review any allegations brought to her carefully. We have not yet received a referral”
Neville’s representatives were contacted for comment.
His agent has reportedly said the post referred not to the Giggs trial but to how the Glazer family are running Manchester United.
During the trial, proceedings were halted when Peter Wright QC, prosecuting, holding a mobile phone, said a social media post “by a member of the public who has a direct connection with this case” had been brought to his attention. He added: “This may be a matter that requires immediate action, so far as that individual is concerned.”
Proceedings were then adjourned for around 50 minutes before court reassembled. Back in court, without the jury, Judge Manley said she had brought the matter to the attention of the more senior judge on the circuit of judges in the region, adding: “No doubt certain steps will be taken.”
Judge Manley said there was no suggestion anyone on the jury was aware or had seen the post and as Kate Greville, Giggs’s ex-girlfriend and complainant in the case, was part way through giving evidence, she did not want to halt proceedings and have the jury wait any longer.
Clearly irked, the judge said the issue had caused “considerable delay” already.
Chris Daw QC, defending Giggs, said he wanted to make it “crystal clear” the defendant did not have anything to do with the Instagram post. The matter was briefly touched on later the same day, with Judge Manley suggesting someone, “have a word with the author”.
Mr Wright replied: “The police can certainly give words of advice to the author...”
Contempt of court is an offence, punishable by a fine or up to two years in prison in the UK.
This includes publishing information that creates a “substantial risk” of serious prejudice to a trial, according to the UK Attorney General’s Office.