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Parliament could step in on Section 39 rules

An early day motion has been tabled in Parliament after two editors were convicted of breaking a Section 39 court order.

Worthing MP Peter Bottomley is asking for a revision of the current law to allow responsible editors to publish anonymous information about juvenile offenders.

The request came after two Sussex newspaper editors were convicted on a case involving the court reporting of children.

Brighton Evening Argus editor Simon Bradshaw and West Sussex County Times editorial director David Briffett were found guilty of publishing articles that contravened a court order banning the identification of a teenage boy excluded from school.

Mr Bottomley said: “It is a surprising case with a surprising result. I made the early day motion, basically trying to make Parliament understand the law we have allowed has problems, and is being turned against us.”

The case hinged on Section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 which, when imposed by a court, bans the media from identifyingchildren and young people involved in a case including their name, address, and school and publishing anything calculated to lead to their identification.

The articles, published last year, accurately reported a High Court case in which a boy from the Horsham area successfully challenged his school’s decision to exclude him.

The High Court imposed a section 39 order on the case banning his identification.

But the magistrates said dates published about when he was excluded and when he started a new school had allowed people with ‘some knowledge’to identify him.

The editors were each fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £1,095 costs between them.

Their solicitor, Dominic Ward, said after the case: “The difficult feature in this is for editors to know which facts to leave in and which to take out.

“This will now be virtually impossible because they do not know whatknowledge people already have.”

Both editors intend to appeal.

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