A weekly newspaper overturned a court order banning the naming of elderly care home residents who were victims of abuse.
The West Briton successfully challenged reporting restrictions on the names of the alleged abuse victims – five of whom were dead – after the prosecutor who requested them admitted they had no legal basis.
The newspaper learned of the ruling at the start of the three-day trial at Truro Crown Court of Fiona Salmon, 40, of Camborne, Cornwall, on seven charges of ill-treating or neglecting elderly care home residents.
Judge Graham Cottle had imposed an order at a previous hearing after a request on behalf of the victims’ families.
Querying the order, West Briton reporter Katri Iivonen-Gray was told it had been made under the Contempt of Court Act 1981. No specific section was identified.
Although undecided about whether it would publish the names, the newspaper submitted a challenge to the order, which the Judge said he would deal with it after the trial concluded.
However after the jury retired, Philip Lee, for the Crown Prosecution Service, admitted he had examined the matter and concluded the court had no power to prohibit the publication.
He also said he had consulted with the families who now understood the “position” adding: “I do not have any proper argument against moving the restrictions.”
Judge Neligan then agreed to remove the Contempt of Court Act order allowing the West Briton to name all the seven victims.
West Briton editor Richard Best said: “Naming the victims was actually not essential to this story, but it was all about the principle at stake. Had all of the victims been alive it would still have been one to challenge, but as five out of seven of them were dead it was difficult to see any grounds on which the ban on identification could be supported.
“Sarah Branthwaite, from Foot Anstey solicitors, helped us with the relevant case law for a compelling letter and Katri hand-delivered it to the court despite the fact it had finished sitting for the day.
“It’s great that not only the judge but the prosecutor not only read the letter but acted on its contents, and well done to Katri for having the gumption to stick with it.”
Salmon was found guilty on all counts.