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Reporter wins fight to name defendant four years after judge’s mystery order

scales-of-justiceA journalist has won a fight to name a defendant – four years after a judge’s mysterious decision to impose an order protecting her.

Tanya Fowles has fought a battle since 2018 to name Josephine Moore, who has been given a three-year probation order and placed under a 10-year restraining order for a campaign of harassment against her father-in-law.

A reporting restriction order was imposed on the case by a judge when the case first appeared before Strabane Magistrates Court in 2017, despite neither prosecution or defence counsel applying for it and no reason being given for its implementation.

Tanya has fought since 2018, when the case was transferred to Dungannon Crown Court, for the order to be lifted but has since had numerous appeals rejected.

Judge Brian Sherrard has now finally lifted the restriction after 36-year-old Moore, from Enniskillen, was sentenced on Friday.

The case has subsequently been covered for the Impartial Reporter by Tanya, who reports on courts across Northern Ireland and also serves as a BBC local democracy reporter in the region.

Making representations for the order to be lifted, Tanya said requests for information on how and why it was granted in 2017 “could not be answered, leaving press confused and concerned at rationale and necessity”.

Judge Sherrard accepted Tanya’s application, telling the court it was “contrary to the interests of justice” for the order to remain.

Speaking to HTFP, Tanya said: “As far back as 2018 I was raising concerns over this order as it was clear there was no actual grounding and procedures weren’t followed.

“Throughout enquiries there was a continued inability to provide any detail on the order, but despite that it was permitted to remain in place.

“When the matter was accepted, I again requested the order be removed in court, but this was refused. Among further enquiries following that, I learned neither prosecution nor defence applied for the order.

“Instead the district judge, of his own volition and without any power to do so, imposed the reporting ban which remained in place whilst unlawful.”

Tanya had previously unsuccessfully applied the Office of the Lord Chief Justice for the restriction to be lifted.

She added: “I said the defendant had been afforded identity protection by the court without reason or the correct application of procedures. Consequently, open justice was subverted.

“It therefore appeared a judge had arbitrarily decided they had powers to impose the order contrary to the legally enshrined principles of open justice and in absence of any corroborating evidence to support the necessity of same.”

Removing the order, Judge Sherrard told the court: “I make this observation. The court will generally feel it is contrary to the interests of justice for reporting restrictions to be put in place when not entirely justified or necessary.”