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Columnist overturns court order on knife robber

A children’s columnist on a weekly newspaper showed veteran court reporters how it is done when she overturned an anonymity order stopping a teenage knife robber from being named.

Sue Plunkett, left, who normally writes the Burnley Express kids’ Corner Club, was called into action at the 11th hour to cover the case of 16-year-old Majid Hussain who carried out a terrifying armed raid on a mobile phone shop in Burnley on New Year’s Day.

A section 39 order had been slapped on proceedings preventing Hussain, of Birkbeck Way, from being identified in the Burnley Crown Court hearing.

But “Auntie Sue”, as she is known to generations of the town’s youngsters, challenged the order despite only covering court cases a handful of times during a 30-year career in local journalism.

Sue passed a handwritten note to the judge calling for reporting restrictions to be lifted in the public interest because of the severity of the crime.

Judge Graham Knowles agreed with the Express report and removed a Section 39 order banning the identification of Hussain who had brandished a six inch blade at two shopkeepers during the raid with another male.

Sentencing Hussain to a two-year detention and training order, Judge Knowles said: “This should send out a message to all young people that if you commit a serious offence with a knife there will be serious consequences and you cannot always expect to hide behind anonymity.”

CCTV footage captured the 16-year-old brandishing a blade

Sue, who describes herself as a journalist who remembers the days of typewriters and photographers’ darkrooms, said she was just doing her job.

“Court reporting is not something I have ever done on a regular basis,” she said.

“When I was asked to cover this case at the last minute I realised I had to ask the judge if he would consider naming the youth as the charges were so serious.

“It was in the public interest for him to be named and that is what I asked the judge to consider when I passed him the note.

“The judge agreed and said he thought the defendant should be named due to the severity of the crime and to show other offenders that they cannot be guaranteed the curtain of anonymity if they decide to commit a crime.”