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Reporter’s court challenge sees teenager named

A prolific young offender has been named in a regional newspaper after a reporter successfully challenged a court order.

Allison Dickinson, a reporter at the Chester Chronicle and the Ellesmere Port Pioneer, waited until the defendant was due to appear just weeks before his 18th birthday to challenge the Section 39 order at Chester Crown Court, to make sure she was in with a stronger chance of it being overturned.

The story appeared on the front page of the Ellesmere Port Pioneer under the headline ‘Named and Shamed’.

The defendant, James Patrick Monaghan, who had 14 previous convictions, had been on a five-day burglary spree which ended in a 110mph car chase through Ellesmere Port.

Monaghan’s legal team had opposed the application on the grounds that the defendant was 17 and had been that age when he carried out the offences.

However the judge found in Allison’s favour, who had argued that it was in the public interest to name the youth.

Added Allison: “I chose to make the application for two reasons. He was a prolific offender and he was being sentenced just nine days before his 18th birthday.

“His actions had a profound effect on a number of people, including one couple who were asleep in bed when he broke into their home. I was confident that my application would be successful, though I was still nervous while it was being discussed.

“It was important to carefully consider my timing as well – Monaghan pleaded guilty on 13 June and I decided not to apply at that time.

“Had I done so, there was a much bigger chance of it being unsuccessful – so I waited until the sentencing as it was closer to his birthday.”

It was not the first time Allison has challenged a Section 39 order.

She said: “I did have a go at challenging an order in my early days as a trainee but I had no idea I would be expected to stand up and mumbled something about public interest. I was completely unprepared and the magistrate refused.”