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Weekly editor slams Section 39 order in neglect case

A court’s decision to impose a Section 39 order on a neglect case involving a baby and toddler, who were abandoned by their drunk mother, has been criticised by a weekly’s editor.

Alan Marriott, of the Isle of Wight County Press, described the decision as “hardly a good advert for open justice” in an editorial in the paper, pictured below.

Magistrates on the Isle of Wight bench had imposed the order at an earlier hearing fearing “online” publicity would be in the ether for ever, despite the County Press’s usual policy of not publishing court cases on its website.

The court heard the unnamed mother had left the children on their own in a cold, damp flat that smelled of urine for five hours while she had gone out drinking with her partner.

190215 IOW

She later ended up attacking a woman in the street.

The woman pleaded guilty to neglect, assault by beating and criminal damage.

She was given a 12-month suspended sentence.

Reporter Matthew McKew sought permission to challenge the order at the full hearing, but was put off by the clerk who said there were no new facts, in her opinion, to make magistrates change their mind.

Alan had sent a letter to the presiding JP but received no response.

In a comment piece accompanying the court story, Alan wrote: “In this case, the (County Press) opposed the order, as we felt the children concerned, one and two years old, were too young to be affected by the publicity.

“Furthermore, we felt it was in the public interest their mother was named for these serious offences.

“There is legal guidance, which states very young children cannot be harmed by publicity of which they are unaware.

“However, the IW bench was not to be swayed by our pleas, so the CP cannot publish the name of the mother in a case where the presiding magistrate herself spoke of its seriousness.

“Hardly a good advert for open justice.”

He also told HTFP: “There is proven case law that children of this young age cannot be damaged by publicity in the press.

“It is worrying that magistrates readily, and I would say incorrectly, slap a Section 39 order on this case.”

9 comments

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  • February 20, 2015 at 9:27 am
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    I see byline says “by a court reporter”. No name then? Or don’t they know who wrote it. Section 39 is there to protect children, remember.

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  • February 20, 2015 at 9:36 am
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    That byline is at least honest. When you see “by a Bugle Gazette reporter” it means just the opposite. Unless they really don’t know the names of staff!
    Anyway, court is right in this case. Protect kids at all costs from public humiliation later.

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  • February 20, 2015 at 9:40 am
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    Surely the magistrates were considering the potential for harm to the victims, one of whom is a toddler, in being identified – particularly in a small town on a small island?
    The fact that the CP does not publish court reports online would not prevent the identity of the mother being repeated on the web by anyone else who has read it in the paper, and it remaining there indefinitely.

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  • February 20, 2015 at 11:52 am
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    Wrong action by IoW mags., no doubt advised by their clerk, and strange decision not to name the reporter.

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  • February 21, 2015 at 12:33 pm
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    I’m more concerned about the pathetically lenient sentence handed down to this so-called ‘mother’. The bench obviously didn’t consider it as serious as it appears to an outsider, although the children were left alone and cold in a house that smelled of urine (and were then returned to her, even though she was ‘petrified’ of her partner). Where are social services in this case???

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  • February 21, 2015 at 4:52 pm
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    Only a wrong decision as far as newspaper concerned, but that does not matter. Perfectly sensible as far as welfare of kids concerned. Why are papers so one-eyed?

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  • February 22, 2015 at 4:10 pm
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    People bleating about the lack of a named byline are missing the point. There may be a simple explanation – done by a freelance but don’t want to say so etc – or there may be policy on not bylining in court case. Who cares?
    The main point is that an unfit mother was able to hide behind her children to secure anonymity, despite the law deciding the children cannot be damaged by such publicity.
    The magistrates seem to think they know better than the law-makers, probably wrongly led by the nose by the clerk of the court who should know better.

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  • February 23, 2015 at 12:19 pm
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    Many papers put ‘court reporter’ to protect staff from reprisals. My paper does it, always have.

    As have others I have worked for.

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  • February 25, 2015 at 5:25 pm
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    To the poster above who said ‘protect children from public humiliation’ – could that not be applied to any court case where parents are involved? The more heinous the crime, by that logic, the less reason to report it.
    No one wants to see children humiliated but courts are increasingly slapping on Sec 39 orders on dubious grounds; should our instincts not be, first and foremost, to inform readers?

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