A former weekly newspaper editor has been acquitted of breaching the Childrens and Young Persons Act after publishing a story about a knife attack after someone had been charged with the offence.
On 26 September 2008, the Croydon Advertiser published an article about the 15-year-old victim of the attack, which had happened on 17 September.
A youth had in fact been arrested and charged with the offence and had appeared at a youth court for the first time on 18 September.
The Northclife-owned title’s then editor, Ian Carter, was charged with a breach of Section 49 of the CYPA, which governs the reporting of youth courts, but was yesterday cleared of the offence.
In a hearing at South Western Magistrates Court, Clapham, South London, the district judge said the article could not be a breach of S49 as it was not a report of the proceedings of the youth court.
The judge was however critical of the paper’s decision to publish the story.
She said: “I think it was misguided in the extreme to publish without first making checks with the police as to the status of any investigation, and it is beyond me as to why it was deemed necessary to disclose the family address.
“But in the circumstances of this particular case I find that this article was not one to which S49 of the Act relates as it is not a report of the proceedings of the youth court.”
Mr Carter, who is now editorial director of the KM Group, said: “I am relieved the case is finally over as it is nearly two years since the story was published. Our contention from the outset was that the article did not breach S49 or any other act.
“I am immensely grateful to my legal representative Anthony Hudson for the manner in which he presented our argument. I am also grateful to Northcliffe for continuing to support me even after I had left the company.”
“I was surprised when the CPS announced that Ian Carter would be prosecuted over the article. When my team legalled the story prior to publication, we took the view that a story which only reported, to quote the district judge, the victim’s “experiences and opinions”, could not possibly contravene S49,” he told HTFP.
“I was even more surprised that the CPS pressed on with the prosecution, despite knowing from the outset the nature of the defence. By ordering that Ian Carter’s legal costs be paid from central funds, it seems the district judge took a similar view about this prosecution.
“It was a prosecution which should never have been brought. Why the CPS pressed on with it is beyond me.”