2 September 2014

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YP editor: Why we didn’t name 15-year-old murder suspect

The editor of the Yorkshire Post has explained why he did not name the 15-year-old charged with stabbing a teacher to death in Leeds.

Police last night charged the teenager with the murder of long-serving Spanish teacher Ann Maguire at the city’s Corpus Christi Catholic College on Monday.

Prior to the charge being brought, the suspect was named in yesterday’s edition of The Sun newspaper, which argued that it had every legal right to identify him.

However the editor of the two regional dailies which cover Leeds has explained why his papers did not do the same.

Jeremy Clifford, editor of the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post, said that in his view the teenager’s identity should have been protected by law from the start.

Speaking to HTFP before last night’s charge, he said:  “He”s innocent in the eyes of law until he’s found guilty. He’s under 16 so as soon as he goes into the legal process his identity will be protected.”

Jeremy said the coverage of the case had highlighted the distinction drawn between the national and regional media by Lord Justice Leveson in his report last year.

“This absolutely underlines the differences between the practices of the national media and the local media which were exemplary in their behaviour and which should therefore not be subject to any modifications to press freedom,” he added.

A spokesman for the Sun said:  “The Sun was within its legal right to name the suspect in the Leeds case and felt it was a matter of public interest.

“We remain committed to informing our readers of the whole story where we are free to do so.”

As well as being published in the Sun, the 15-year-old’s name has also been widely circulated on social media.

The teenager will appear at Leeds Youth Court today and then at Leeds Crown Court for a bail hearing tomorrow

Peter Mann, head of the complex casework unit at CPS Yorkshire and Humberside, said: “A 15-year-old male was arrested in connection with this incident and has been interviewed under caution by police.

“Having carefully considered all of the evidence presented to us by West Yorkshire Police, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to charge this youth with the murder of Ann Maguire and that it is in the public interest to do so.”

8 Comments

  1. RT, Croydon

    Seems a bit spineless to me, not a shining example of how great the regional press is. If the YP was entitled to name him – and the Sun had already laid the groundwork – I’d have been in favour of doing so.
    No legal restrictions, and clearly justifiable under the Editors’ Code under public interest.
    Mind you, is this the same Jez Clifford who envisages a great future with no photographers or reporters, as per last month’s regional editors’ conference?
    If so, no wonder he’s happy to play it safe and rely on police guidance.

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  2. Rob

    I can’t see what the problem is that the Sun named this 15 year old, there were so many witnesses to his heinous crime so its not as if its alleged that he committed this murder, and I’m sure had that been the case then the Sun would not have named him……

    I totally disagree with Jeremy Cliffords view.

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  3. The Daily Mess

    Never thought I’d say this… but absolutely agree with the Sun here. If it’s legal, the newspaper should have reported it – justice being seen to be done and all that.

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  4. Observer

    I agree with Jeremy Clifford – let the Sun do its thing, and let the rest uphold the law. He’s been charged, not convicted, and juveniles in criminal courts have their identities withheld for a reason.

    The judge in the trial can change that, as happened with the Bulger killers.

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  5. Chris Maguire, Manchester

    Only Jeremy knows the full details but, in my opinion, he made the right decision. It’s easy to accuse editors of being ‘spineless’ but it’s equally easy to accuse them of being ‘insensitive’. Whatever the horrendous circumstances of the case (and they’re awful) the legal process must be allowed to run its course without prejudice. However, this isn’t a case where there are winners and losers. (NOTE: Despite sharing her name I’m not related to the tragic victim Ann Maguire, whose family have my heartfelt sympathies.)

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  6. RT

    I think Observer and Chris are missing the point somewhat. There was a sweeping assumption that he couldn’t be named. The Sun, to its credit, found out that was not the case.
    If Clifford didn’t want to follow suit then fine, but to use it as an example of how the regional press is ‘better’ than the nationals is utterly ludicrous. There are plenty of restrictions in place to determine what we can and can’t report, and adding some of our own is nothing to boast about.

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  7. oldhack

    As a former media law tutor, may I clarify the legal position in this case?
    The media has always been able to identify a juvenile suspect up to the point where he/she appears in court, though few have done so over the years.
    It has little to do with the Editors’ Code, it is simply the law as it stands.
    Odd, though, that when Jack Straw’s teenage son was in bother with the law some years ago newspapers did not realise they could name him. When the Government realised what might have happened to a minister’s son they announced proposals to change the law, but quietly forgot them later.
    Mr Clifford is entitled to the view that the teenager in the Leeds case should have the right to anonymity and I’m sure there are other editors who would feel the same way.
    However, one should always be aware that riding a high horse — claiming the moral high ground — could lead to a fall.

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