A weekly newspaper journalist won the right to publish a serving police officer’s address after a successful court challenge.
Former West Mercia and current Metropolitan Police officer Michael Vincent pleaded not guilty at Hereford Magistrates Court to a charge of assault by beating Alison Vincent on 28 April at Worcester.
John Nutman, defending, argued that a Section 11 restriction should be imposed to restrict the publication of Vincent’s address, citing current security fears in the wake of the London and Manchester terror attacks.
Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 gives courts the power to make a direction prohibiting the publication of a name or other matter but only where the court has exercised either its inherent or statutory jurisdiction to withhold a name or other matter from the public in the proceedings.
It is rare for the court to make such a direction in respect of a defendant.
Chair of magistrates Robyn Lee accepted that current “tensions” meant that the risk to police officers was “significantly higher” than it would normally be.
But Ben, who recently took the NCTJ’s National Qualification in Journalism exams, argued that there were not sufficient national security grounds to impose such an order to deny the publication of Vincent’s address.
He said: “The public has the right to know. We have people ringing up regularly with requests for their address to be withheld which are declined. Being a police officer is no different to any other profession.”
Ben added that in practicality only the street name would be disclosed and not the full address and, after 15 minutes of deliberation, magistrates agreed not to grant the Section 11 order.
Mrs Lee said: “We must be satisfied an order would act in the public interest of open justice. Allowing names or addresses to be withheld is rare and case law suggests the court should only restrict in the administration of open justice. I don’t feel this is the case in these circumstances.
“We refuse the restriction but note the representation from the Hereford Times that they only print the street name and not the full address which is also part of our decision.”
Vincent, of Humphreys Close, Stroud, is due to stand trial at Redditch Magistrates Court in July.
Ben told HTFP: “I had to think on my feet without any McNae’s with me, but luckily I took my NQJ exams around three months ago and had it off the top of my head with regards to what to go with.”