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Axe magistrates who don’t know law on naming the dead, says editor

Richard DugganA regional daily editor has called for magistrates who mistakenly make anonymity orders about dead people to be “barred from duty”.

Richard Duggan, left, hit out after fellow editor Daniel Jae Webb covered a case in which magistrates attempted to impose a Section 45 order restricting journalists’ ability to identify a dead child.

Daniel, who edits Wiltshire 999s, said the chair of the bench in the case also tried to find other ways to restrict reporting after being told the S45 was invalid.

He posted about the issue on X, prompting criticism of the magistrates from other journalists including Richard, who is regional editor for Newsquest North West.

Daniel wrote on Friday: “Magistrates imposed an S45 reporting restriction on a dead child today… with much more experienced journalists in the courtroom, I let them challenge it.

“S45 was removed, but the chair was very unhappy and wanted to know if there was any other way to restrict reporting.

“The bench was repeatedly told – even by the defence solicitor – that there were no grounds for S45.

“Yet the chair continued to ask if there other ways to ban the reporting of the child’s name. Thankfully, after a whisper-led discussion with their legal advisor, the palaver ended.

“For info: This was a case involving two adults charged with the manslaughter of said child. A reporting restriction could have prevented the publication of the case, or aspects of it.

“Either way, an S45 expires on death – so it technically wouldn’t have made any difference.”

In response, Richard, who is responsible for newspapers including the Bolton News and Lancashire Telegraph, said: “Magistrates found to be doing this should be barred from duty for obstruction of open justice.”

Speaking to HTFP, he added: “During my time as a reporter, I often saw magistrates and legal advisors failing to understand and properly implement the law, impeding proper reporting of the court process.

“Magistrates’ courts need proper scrutiny to ensure journalists are able to do their job and be the eyes and ears of the public.”

Other journalists who commented on the post included media law trainer David Banks.

He wrote: “It would appear some justices need reminding of Reporting Restrictions in the Magistrates Court – copies of which they’ll find in their own library.

“Orders like this waste court time, and do nothing to foster proper reporting of the courts.”

And Mike Taylor, who works for Reach plc titles caross the South-West of England, added: “Very clear that magistrates need a media law refresher! You can’t put a reporting restriction on a dead person.”