A regional daily reporter has successfully challenged a court order preventing the naming of three youths.
Amy Fenton, 26, a senior reporter for the North West Evening Mail in Cumbria challenged a Section 39 Order which was applied to three youths at Furness Magistrates Court.
The order, which is not automatic when youths appear in adult courts, would have prevented Amy from naming in her report three 17-year-old boys who has been charged with affray.
Amy took on three solicitors to get the order overturned, arguing that the boys would soon be 18 and it was unfair to only name the fourth defendant who had already turned 18. She also argued that the alleged incident took place at a house party where 40 other people were in attendance.
Said Amy: “Magistrates agreed with me that only naming one of the defendants was unfair and unbalanced.
“I’m sure there are lots of reporters who have come across magistrates who seem to automatically grant a Section 39 Order to prevent identification of a youth who appears in the adult court.
“Some magistrates, and even court clerks, seem to be under the impression that Section 39 Orders are a given.
“I argued that as one defendant was 18, and the others only 17, in the interests of fairness and balance and as they had all been jointly charged with the same, very serious offence, it was only right all should be named.
“I also checked the dates of birth of each defendant and argued that one would have turned 18 before the next court appearance, another would turn 18 in four months and the third would turn 18 in 11 months.”
She added: “I was surprised when the magistrates came back and sided with me. I’d been up against the three defence solicitors, who argued their clients shouldn’t be named.”
Deputy editor of the paper James Higgins said that Section 39 orders were too often imposed with little thought about the impact they may have on the administration of open justice and a newspaper’s ability to report a case.
Said James: “In this instance Amy thought on her feet and challenged what was clearly a nonsensical order.
“It was great that the magistrates listened to her argument and lifted the ban.
“This was an excellent example of a young reporter successfully applying initiative and legal knowledge and achieving the desired result.”
Chair of the bench at Furness Magistrates Court Lynne Slavin said that it was in the public interest for the men to be named given the seriousness of the charges, adding that it was unfair for one to be named and not the others.