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'Ridiculous' Section 39 order overturned thanks to Advertiser

A “ridiculous” Section 39 order made on the victim of a vicious hammer attack – who had already been featured extensively in the press – has been successfully overturned by the Swindon Advertiser.

Crime reporter Gareth Bethell had been covering the case of a man alleged to have attacked 15-year-old Henry Webster at a school in Wroughton, when the District Judge slapped a Section 39 on the victim.

The order came despite Henry’s parents already appearing in the Advertiser alongside a picture of their son.

The high-profile attack involving a claw hammer in the school tennis courts had also already been followed up by the national press, radio and television.

But in the minutes before the court broke for lunch the District Judge made the order – prompting Gareth to query the order with court officials before ringing the investigating officer and his news editor Tom Morton.

Gareth said: “I asked the clerk if I could speak to the judge and when he came back into court I told him what the police had said and that Henry’s identity and photo had already been all over the media.”

The District Judge agreed to lift the Section 39 leaving the Advertiser free to report the story in all its detail.

News editor Tom Morton said: “This shows how important it is to have the confidence to challenge court orders.

“Had it stood, the order would have been ridiculous – the victim’s identity is accessible to anyone with a computer.

“Although we were the only media in court, the level of interest in the case has been huge and this could have presented problems at a later stage.

“Gareth used his police contacts and knowledge of court procedures extremely well.”