AddThis SmartLayers

Pair charged with baby attack named after challenge

A journalist from a news agency has successfully challenged an anonymity order which would have prevented a couple charged with battering their baby from being identified.

David Graham from Blackpool-based Watsons News Agency said three-month-old Thomas Searle was too young to be affected by publicity about the case and said a Section 39 order should not be made.

Police had refused to name the couple when they were charged with the attack on their baby, saying an anonymity order would be made when they appeared in court.

But David argued against this and magistrates in Blackpool refused to make the order under Section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 after his challenge.

Magistrates at Blackpool were told at a special hearing on Saturday that baby Thomas Searle was fighting for his life in hospital – and that if he survived, he would be blind and suffering from incurable brain damage.

The parents, 19-year-old mother-of-two Kayleigh Searle of Blackpool and her boyfriend Reece Bourne, 18, of Preston, are charged with causing him grievous bodily harm through neglect and assault, while Searle is also charged with perverting the course of justice.

The pair were remanded in custody to appear at Preston Crown Court on May 12 at the court hearing.

Baby Thomas is critically ill at Royal Manchester Childrens’ Hospital where his mother was allowed to visit him flanked by police officers on Friday night.

If he dies, Searle and Bourne are likely to be re-charged with murder.

When they announced on Friday that Searle and Bourne had been charged, Lancashire Police said the force was not naming either of them.

The force said: “In consultation with the CPS, at this stage, the decision has been taken not to name the two people who have been charged.

“The reason for this is because there will be an application made for a Section 39 order at court in the morning which would prevent the baby from being named.

“Hence we will not release any information that could lead to the identification of the baby – including releasing the names of the defendants (as the relationship between them and baby may have previously been reported).”

A CPS spokesperson added: “It was decided not to name the two individuals when they were charged initially until matters had been resolved in court in the morning. This meant a short delay on the identification of the two defendants.”

Guidance on Section 39 orders states they must be justified and the court should remember that very young children cannot be affected by publicity about a case.