A judge yesterday ruled the Apple Daily did not have to name a reporter whose article led to the scrapping of a murder trial. Mr Justice Thomas Gall said the newspaper and its editor-in-chief, Ip Yut-kin, were entitled to the right to remain silent. 'This is a criminal case or matter,' the judge said in the Court of First Instance. 'Although it is brought . . . in the guise of a civil matter, everything else about it relates to the criminal law and the committal for contempt sought by the plaintiff is a criminal contempt.' The Apple Daily and Mr Ip face a separate committal hearing for contempt of court due to start on November 6. Mr Justice Gall said it would be a breach of the basic principles of criminal law to force those involved in a criminal matter to disclose details related to the offence by way of a civil proceeding. Government lawyer Christina Cheung said the action was brought by the Secretary for Justice to protect the public interest. She said the Government wanted to remind reporters they had an important role in the administration of justice. Mr Justice Gall awarded costs against the Secretary for Justice, but added it was not a punitive action. 'She is guardian of the law as far as the public is concerned. To have costs awarded against her is not a sanction imposed by the court,' he said. The Government tried to have the name and address of the reporter disclosed after the publication of the article on October 5 last year. Mr Justice Frank Stock halted the murder trial of Yuen Wing-kong in the High Court the same month after finding the article - which referred to Yuen as a paedophile - inaccurate and prejudicial. He ordered the matter be passed to the Secretary for Justice for a decision on possible action against the newspaper. Yuen, 42, was found guilty of murdering Yu Tze-fung, five, after a new trial was held in February. He was jailed for life. Earlier, Barrister Benjamin Yu SC, for the Government, had argued it was in the interest of justice that the reporter's name should be disclosed. But the newspaper's lawyer, Gerard McCoy SC, said the defendants had a right in a criminal matter not to answer questions unless there was statutory requirement to do so. He said there was no duty in any criminal proceedings for the defendant to assist the prosecutor. The Government is considering whether to appeal against Mr Justice Gall's ruling. Chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Mak Yin-ting welcomed the decision, saying it was a 'relief' for frontline journalists. Ms Mak said she did not understand why the Secretary for Justice insisted on pressing for the reporter's identity. 'It is not necessary for the Government to advance this application,' she said.