Magistrates have admitted they blundered by preventing a weekly newspaper publishing a picture of a man who was given a landmark drinking ban.
The Bridgwater Mercury reported that 23-year-old Ryan Jodkowski had been barred from every licensed premises in England and Wales between 7pm and 7am, banned from buying alcohol altogether, and banned from being under the influence of drink in public.
Police had sought the order because Jodkowski had a history of drink-related offences. In 2007, he was jailed for his part in an assault which left a man brain damaged.
However, when magistrates made the drink banning order, they also agreed to a police request to ban the press from publishing Jodkowski’s picture because he feared “reprisals.”
Following protestations by the Mercury and others, the photo ban was removed in a hearing at Sedgemoor Magistrates’ Court earlier this week.
The court’s legal advisor Michael Brook admitted the court had no power to impose such a ban on the grounds requested.
Mercury news editor Matthew Colledge said: “When we heard about this drink banning order, it was obvious to us it could only work if the general public knew what this man looked like, so we were stunned to be told that we would not be allowed to publish a photo of him.
“Although other local media ran the story straight, with no reference to the photo ban, we knew there was no basis in law, or any commonsense reason, to deny our right to publish this man’s photo, so we persevered.
“Eventually, the magistrates told us they had made a mistake and agreed to another hearing where the order was quashed.
“On the one hand, we did well out of it, with two good stories rather than one, it was also an immensely frustrating experience, as it involved so much legwork merely to establish such a basic right of a free press.”
In formally overturning the photo ban, chairman of the bench, Nicholas Van Der Bijl, said he did so not just because of pressure from the Mercury.
He said: “The bench did query the common sense side of including this in the order at the time so it wasn’t something we were entirely comfortable with.”