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Two Sussex newspaper editors have won a landmark test case about reporting court hearings involving children.
In an appeal hearing at the High Court in London, Lord Justice Laws said an order made in court restricting what journalists could report had beenunclear.
The editors had been found guilty of contravening a Section 39 order of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 by Mid Sussex magistrates in March. The order prevents anything being published “calculated to lead to” the identification of a child.
The case hinged on articles published last year which accurately reported a High Court case in which a boy, from the Horsham district, successfullychallenged his school’s decision to expel him.
The court imposed a Section 39 order.
And although the newspaper reports did not include the boy’s name, address or school, magistrates heard how a family friend with children at the same school as the boy before he was excluded had identified him from the details.
Yesterday Jollyon Robertson, prosecuting, said the section 39 was all-embracing and directed at an informed audience.
He said: “This is a section which is in common usage in this country andwell understood.”
But Lord Justice Laws, sitting with Mr Justice Newman, quashed Mr Bradshaw’s and Mr Briffett’s criminal convictions.
They will give written reasons for their decisions in October.
Lord Justice Laws said: “Someone faced with an order shouldn’t have to make any assumptions.
“He should be told by the court what he cannot do, and by inference what he can do, without having to burrow through books. I would have thought that is repugnant to common law and has been for hundreds of years.”
Mr Justice Newman said the editors faced a difficult task to know whichparticulars they could or could not report.