A local newspaper reporter successfully challenged reporting restrictions that attempted to conceal the identity of the mother of serial killer Levi Bellfield.
Chris Caulfield, a reporter at the Surrey Herald & News in Chertsey, attended a magistrates’ court hearing having previously revealed the exclusive on the story that Jean Bellfield had been charged.
The 75-year-old and her partner John Lee, 72, were due before Staines Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 28 March to face charges of harassment without violence against Emma Mills.
The hearing was postponed until 12 April because Mrs Bellfield could not attend due to a lung condition. Mr Lee was present and pleaded not guilty.
Emma is the mother of three of Levi Bellfield’s children and was his partner when he murdered Milly Dowler, Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange between 2002 and 2004.
The two are accused of deliberately driving past Ms Mills’ home or her children’s school on seven separate occasions between 14 September last year and 7 January this year, in the knowledge that doing so would cause harassment, alarm or distress.
Mrs Bellfield’s defence lawyer David Allmond, applied to the court to have the addresses of the defendants, as well as the identities of himself and his legal team, kept private – as well as any photographs of the defendants, themselves and friends and family.
The court was adjourned for 30 minutes to allow Mr Allmond time to decide which law he was making the application under.
During this time Chris put together his case to fight the proposed reporting restriction.
Said Chris: “It then turned into a full hearing on the application with Mr Allmond citing Article 4C of the Contempt of Court Act, as well as the European Human Rights Act on privacy.
“While he made his application I took notes.
“He talked about right to privacy under the Human Rights Act and about how Levi Bellfield had a Section 4 order during his original trial for the murders of Amelie and Marsha.”
Chris then questioned Mr Allmond as to why his original application for the reporting restriction was not based on any specific law.
Chris quoted the Queen’s Bench Divisional Court held in 1985 held that it was an essential part of British justice that cases should be tried in public and consideration had to outweigh the individual interests of particular persons.
Said Chris: “There had to be provable and extreme reasons for a departure from the fundamental principle of open justice.”
He added that the addresses had already been published and the Contempt of Court Act could not scramble something back into secret which is already in the public domain.
The bench then threw out the application.
Speaking after the hearing, Chris said: “I can understand a lawyer chancing their arm at such things but a fair and public hearing is as important as a free press and I am glad both principles were upheld.”
Deputy editor Colin Parker said: “Chris showed brilliantly quick thinking and a sharp courtroom manner to challenge this unfair attempt to prevent the press reporting in an open court. He cleared the way for other local and national newspaper journalists to cover the hearing unhindered.”