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Judges reserve decision in former daily editor’s appeal case

Brian Aitken Pic

A former regional daily editor who was fined £1,600 after his paper breached an anonymity order in a child sex case was in court this week to appeal against his conviction.

Brian Aitken, who edited Newcastle’s The Journal, was hit with the fine after appearing in court last October where he pleaded guilty to breaching a section 39 Order made by a magistrates court.

The court case came about after The Journal published a story which named a school worker accused of sexual offences involving one of the pupils at the school – and included the name of the school in the story, in breach of an order made under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.

Brian, who left the paper before Christmas, launched an appeal after being hit with the £1,600 fine and the case went to the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday, where judges reserved judgement.

Tweeting about the latest hearing, Brian wrote on Tuesday: “So today I will enter the Royal Courts of Justice for the first time. I’ll let you know if they pass the Ronseal test.”

His appeal centres on the interpretation of section 39 (2) by District Judge Stephen Earle at a hearing in Newcastle last October, where the trial was told that Brian was unaware at the time of publication that a section 39 order had been made.

Alex Bailin QC, for Brian, had argued that he should not have been prosecuted because section 39 (2) specifies that the liability for breaching an order is borne by “any person who publishes any matter in contravention of an order”.

Mr Bailin told the court that the phrase “any person who publishes” meant the publisher, and while Brian was the editor, he was not the newspaper’s publisher, which was NCJ Media Ltd.

At the hearing last October, Brian pleaded guilty only after District Judge Earle rejected the argument over the interpretation of the legislation.

NCJ Media Ltd, the North-East division of Trinity Mirror which publishes the paper, also admitted breaching the order and was fined £2,160 for that and a further £2,160 in respect of a similar publication in sister title the Chronicle, and was ordered to pay costs.

A spokeswoman for Trinity Mirror said it was supporting Brian’s appeal but was not appealing the conviction or fines imposed on NCJ Media.

Judges reserved judgement following this week’s hearing and a decision is expected in the coming weeks.

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  • April 2, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    It is true the Ed could not have known about the order, although the paper should have taken steps to ensure it was 100 per cent sure. However the buck must surely stop with Ed.
    The only way to avoid this is to be in court all the trial. A lot of reporters are not, though I don’t know about this one.

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