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Newspaper halts bid to impose reporting restrictions in same case twice

A regional daily successfully challenged attempts to impose reporting restrictions in the same case twice.

Teenager Shane Smith was on trial at Teesside Crown Court accused of affray with two of his older relatives also in the dock.

A Section 39 order protecting his identity had been made in magistrates’ court – but was never made afresh at the crown court – so Smith’s name was reported in a piece covering the trial opening.

Three days into the trial, however, the defence realised an order had not been made and applied for a reporting restriction under S39.

Teesside Gazette court reporter Gareth Lightfoot challenged the application, arguing in court that his name was already known and had been published, and that an order would not be in the public interest.

The judge agreed with his representations.

However three weeks later, after Smith had been convicted of affray and when he re-appeared for sentencing, his barrister again applied for a S39 order to be made, arguing that the charge on which he was convicted could have been tried in youth court with automatic anonymity.

Gareth again made the case for publication – arguing that even in youth court the press can apply for automatic restrictions to be lifted for serious and persistent offending. The judge said he wasn’t going to impose any restriction on reporting.

Smith, of Great Ayton, was given a 12-month youth rehabilitation order.

Judge John Walford told him: “Bearing in mind this was a serious public disorder, and given that there were a range of ages of those involved, it seems to me there is a legitimate public interest in all those involved who were convicted being identified.”

It amounted to a hat-trick of successful challenges for Gareth who Between the two appeals also got restrictions lifted in a separate case.

A week after the Smith trial, he was involved alongside the Northern Echo’s court reporter in lifting a reporting restriction banning the media from naming Hannah Byron, who was sentenced for making a false rape claim.

As reported on HTFP last week, the challenge by the two papers led to that restriction being lifted and the 20-year-old, of York, being named.

Gazette editor Chris Styles said: “Gareth’s tenacity and experience ensured that justice has been seen to be done – and has clearly served the public interest.”

6 comments

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  • June 6, 2012 at 10:57 am
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    I thought Section 39s imposed in the magistrates court carried through to the crown court.

    Please see below wording of the clause under CPYA and note point 1 – the phrase ”in relation to ANY proceedings in ANY court.”

    I read this to mean a section 39 imposed on a given court case applies to other courts the case comes before. Am I mistaken?

    “39 Power to prohibit publication of certain matter in newspapers.

    (1)In relation to any proceedings in any court . . . F1, the court may direct that—

    (a)no newspaper report of the proceedings shall reveal the name, address or school, or include any particulars calculated to lead to the identification, of any child or young person concerned in the proceedings, either as being the person [F2by or against] or in respect of whom the proceedings are taken, or as being a witness therein:

    (b)no picture shall be published in any newspaper as being or including a picture of any child or young person so concerned in the proceedings as aforesaid;

    except in so far (if at all) as may be permitted by the direction of the court.

    (2)Any person who publishes any matter in contravention of any such direction shall on summary conviction be liable in respect of each offence to a fine not exceeding [F3level 5 on the standard scale].”

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  • June 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm
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    Not sure about that because the crown proceedings would be new following the magistrates decision to decline jurisdiction in order to commit to crown.

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  • June 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm
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    I can’t find anything definitive either way.

    At the very least the Crown Court should reiterate that there are reporting restrictions on the case at the first hearing.

    I would assume the Mags order is in place until the case goes before the CC for the first time (otherwise as soon as it goes on the CC list a journo could report it).

    But if the CC then made no mention of it in first hearing then it becomes a bit of a grey area.
    The fact the judge in this case did not say that the order remained from the mags makes me think it doesn’t carry if no request is made in the first hearing.

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  • June 6, 2012 at 5:35 pm
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    Gareth is an extremely experienced court reporter and there’s very little he doesn’t know about reporting restrictions. If he says the S39 doesn’t carry to crown court, I wouldn’t argue with him!

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  • June 11, 2012 at 12:54 pm
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    This frequently causes confusion – it’s regularly assumed that a section 39 order made at magistrates automatically carries to the higher court when it doesn’t. However try telling that to those who work in the courts sometimes!

    Unfortunately, it’s not uncomon for unlawful orders to be made restricting reporting. Another problem is that when legal guidance is issued from the top it doesn’t always trickle down to those who have to put it into practice.

    Good stuff anyway Gareth – it takes a lot of nerve to stand up and oppose an application in this way, even for experienced journalists.

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