A regional daily journalist blocked a bid to keep the identities of two defendants in a child abuse trial secret after receiving support for her application from the father of one of their alleged victims.
Amy Fenton, breaking news reporter at The Mail, successfully challenged an attempt by both defence and prosecution counsels to have an order imposed which would have prevented the Barrow-in-Furness-based daily from naming Rebecca Leigh O’Brien and Nathan Moscrop.
O’Brien and Moscrop, who are both from Barrow, are set to go on trial after pleading not guilty to neglecting and causing suffering to a baby girl and a young boy.
Prosecutor Peter Kelly, along with O’Brien’s solicitor Maureen Fawcett and Moscrop’s solicitor Mike Graham, applied for reporting restrictions to prevent identification of the two child victims in the case in a hearing at South Cumbria Magistrates Court yesterday.
Amy, pictured, challenged the request, saying that while The Mail had no intention or inclination to name the two alleged victims, the paper could only reasonably report on the case if it could identify the defendants.
She told District Judge Gerald Chalk that an order made under Section 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 would place a substantial and unreasonable restriction on reporting of the case.
Ruling in The Mail’s favour, the judge said: “I don’t believe any press coverage is likely to cause any detriment to the two children involved.”
O’Brien, 25, and Moscrop, 27, who were previously a couple, are accused of two counts of assaulting, neglecting or ill-treating a child in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury.
The charges relate to a then six-month-old baby girl and a one-year-old boy and are alleged to have taken place between March 2015 and March 2016.
Amy, who is 33 and celebrates 10 years with The Mail this week, told HTFP: “It’s all too common for courts to routinely impose reporting restrictions in any case involving a child as a matter of course. Despite guidance, courts often grant such anonymity orders simply on the basis that a child is involved, regardless of their age, instead of being persuaded of the necessity to do so while upholding the principles of open justice and in the interests of the public.
“I explained to the judge that in practical terms a Section 45 order would effectively make it very difficult, if not impossible, for us to identify the two defendants.
“I also told the court that my challenge to any reporting restrictions comes on the back of conversations I have had with the father of one of the victims who was determined both defendants be named. He backed our challenge and agreed the case should be reported as fully as possible to ensure the judiciary process is carried out in public.”
Editor Vanessa Sims added: “The media plays a vital role in upholding the principles of public interest and this successful challenge is illustrative of our record of challenging authority and campaigning for greater transparency.
“Reporting restrictions would have severely hampered our ability to report fairly on the case and I’m delighted the district judge agreed with us.”
O’Brien and Moscrop both pleaded not guilty and will next appear at Preston Crown Court on 7 July.