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.”