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Weekly blocks court gag bid over mugging

A London weekly won the right to name a single mum who mugged two teenagers while pushing a baby in her pram.

Armed with a copy of the new guidelines on reporting restrictions recently published by industry bodies, Sutton Guardian reporter Mike Didymus persuaded a judge not to impose a gagging order in the case.

Initially Judge Ruth Downing at Croydon Crown Court had wanted to impose an order under section 39 of the Children and Young Persons’ Act because she did not want the baby to be identified.

But Mike successfully argued that since the baby was not a victim, defendant or witness and therefore not part of proceedings, placing a section 39 order in relation to it would be invalid.

He also argued that a section 39 order was inappropriate because the child was too young to be “harmed by publicity of which they will be unaware.”

Guardian assistant editor Matthew Knowles had earlier copied the paragpraph on section 39s from the new guidelines and given them to each reporter so they could carry them into court.

Said Matthew: “Had this order been placed, it would have prevented us either identifying the mother who had committed the crime, or forced us to leave out the fact she was pushing her four-month-old in a pram when she mugged two teenagers, which was clearly a key part of the story.”

Prosecution and defence solicitors had both made submissions, attempting to argue the baby should not be identified.

Following the submissions, Judge Downing said: “The overriding right here is for the press to publish freely. The restriction of freedom of the press must not be taken lightly.

“I’m satisfied that identification is not in any way likely to interfere or harm this small child.”

Meanwhile another London weekly won the right to name six teenagers who were jailed for more than six years for their part in a violent town centre brawl.

Richmond and Twickenham Times reporter Joanne Kilvington halted moves to to slap a section 39 order on the youths, who admitted taking part in the vicious mass fight in Richmond town centre.

Assistant editor Gerry Holt said: “There were discussions about putting a section 39 order on the defendants, as the case had transferred from youth court to adult court.

“However, because of the seriousness of the offence and because the RTT had previously published their names, as reporter Joanna Kilvington pointed out in court – we won the right to name them.”