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Reporter slams ‘ridiculous’ decision to give car vandal lifetime anonymity

Tanya FowlesA reporter has slammed a “ridiculous” decision to grant lifetime anonymity to a woman who damaged a car because she has “medical issues”.

Tanya Fowles has hit out after being barred from identifying the woman by a judge at Magherafelt Magistrates Court, in Northern Ireland.

The move brings the total number of lifetime anonymity orders in the UK to 10, the last three being imposed in Northern Ireland and all on the basis of alleged mental health or medical issues.

Tanya, a freelance court journalist who also works as a local democracy reporter, is challenging the ban, which was made despite the case including the name, address and the extent of the woman’s offending being covered in full just weeks beforehand.

At sentencing, which followed the woman deliberately causing thousands of pounds worth of damage to a car, District Judge Oonagh Mullan said: “There should be no press reporting of the case given this lady’s medical issues.”

Tanya, pictured, said: “No advance notice was provided to press as is set down in procedures, nor was any attempt made to engage them in the process.

“It would be over 24 hours before the text of the order was furnished by the Office of the Lady Chief Justice banning publication of the defendant’s identity despite the entire case including her name, address and the extent of her offending being covered in full just weeks beforehand, so anonymity was lost.

“Lifetime Anonymity Orders are strictly reserved for cases in which there is a confirmed third-party risk to life and generally applied to persons who have served a prison sentence then released with a new identity.”

She added: “I think this [ban] is every more ridiculous as the judge ordered a complete media blackout which she had no power to do and certainly not without a proper hearing.”

In recent times, Tanya has also been gagged while covering the cases of two sex offenders given the same right to lifetime anonymity.

Until these recent cases, previous lifetime anonymity orders all related to cases of murder and generally applied to new identities for offenders on release from prison – including James Bulger’s killers Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, as well as Soham schoolgirl murderer Ian Huntley’s partner Maxine Carr.