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Agency overturns gag on sex case charges

The Press Association succeeded in getting reporting restrictions lifted after a defendant accused of child sex offences died the day before his trial was due to start.

Staff at Isleworth Crown Court had initially insisted that restrictions imposed in the trial of primary school teacher Robert Stringer would remain in force.

The 56-year-old had been due to appear at the court on 1 March but died the previous evening when his car hit a bridge on the A41 in Hertfordshire.

Reporting restrictions banning the publication of details of the charges against him remained in place and court staff said these could not be given in reports of his death.

The orders, under Sections 4(2) and 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, specified that the media could only report Stringer’s name and address and the place and date of the next court appearance, Media Lawyer reports.

But PA legal editor Mike Dodd wrote to the court saying that the order should be lifted immediately and questioned whether the court staff were correct in their assertions.

He argued that Stringer’s death meant there was now no justification for the reporting restrictions to remain in force as there was no risk of any prejudice as no trial could take place.

In addition, the restrictions placed an unreasonable restriction on the media’s right to report a road accident in which a man facing serious charges of sexual offences against children has died.

Judge Martin Edmunds QC, before whom the case was listed, agreed to lift the restrictions.

Stringer, from Bridgnorth in Shropshire, had faced two counts of raping a child under 13, one of raping child under 14, two charges of indecent assault, seven of sexually assaulting a child under 13, three charges of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, five of assaulting a child under 13 by penetration, two of attempted rape and one of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child.

The offences, involving four girls, were allegedly committed between 1999 and 2009.