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Crown court turnaround after reporter's protest

A reporter on the weekly West Cumberland Times & Star in Workington successfully challenged a section 39 order to allow publication of the name of a teenager involved in an animal torture case which made national news.

It was a real test for Anna Burdett, (29), on a rare visit to Carlisle Crown Court. There is no crown court sitting in her newspaper’s area.

The S39 order had been made to protect the identity of a 17-year-old charged with cruelly ill-treating animals, including the shooting of a horse and setting fire to a live cat at an animal sanctuary. He appeared with two adults.

Anna, having diaried the court appearance, decided to check the ages of the defendants and discovered that the boy had turned 18 just days before his latest court appearance.

She drafted a letter to the court for her editor to sign, arguing that the order should not be used to protect adults and that there was an overriding public interest.

Judge Barbara Forrester immediately lifted the order.

Times & Star editor Steve Johnston said: “This was such an atrocious crime and of such overwhelming interest that it demanded the naming of all those responsible.

“Anna was spot on and it is a reminder that it is worth doing your homework on defendants before they reappear in court.

“I am particularly pleased because neither the local daily paper or court freelances had considered a challenge.”

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