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Weekly blocks gag attempt in forest kidnap case

A Hampshire weekly has blocked an attempt to prevent it naming two women who kidnapped a friend and left her semi-naked in the New Forest.

Southampton Crown Court heard how Danielle Dixon (21) and Jessica Smith (17) set upon 19-year-old Heidi Brooks because Dixon was angry with the victim, believing she had lied about having a miscarriage.

During the 20-minute attack Ms Brooks was kicked, punched, stamped on, forced face downwards in horse manure and had piercings ripped from her navel and eyebrow.

She was then stripped to her underwear and eventually left bloodied and bruised in bushes.

During the court hearing on Tuesday, Smith’s barrister Jamie Porter had requested that the judge impose a reporting restriction to give his client, who was only 16 at the time of the offence, anonymity because of her age.

However New Milton Advertiser and Lymington Times reporter Carolyn Dench challenged the ruling, pointing out her name had already been published in previous court reports.

Judge Peter Ralls QC had earlier said: “It is wrong that she should be named, in the circumstances it is right an order should be made.”

However following the newspaper’s challenge, he said he did not know her name had already been published and agreed the restriction could not be imposed.

Said Carolyn: “Although it was quite nerve-wracking addressing the judge, I felt it was my duty as a reporter to challenge the order.

“Too often solicitors and barristers try to get these orders passed to protect their clients, when the law is not actually on their side.

“It is hugely important for local journalism that these orders are only made when necessary, so that freedom of the press remains in place.

“Our readers want to know about what is happening locally, and justice would not have been served if the defendant had remained anonymous.”

Both women pleaded guilty to kidnap, the robbery of the victim’s mobile phone and ring, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Dixon was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail and Smith to six months’ detention.