Brighton Argus wins costs ruling after trainee's stand

A trainee journalist at The Argus in Brighton, Claire Truscott, has won a legal victory for the media.

Four "ferocious lawyers" believed that Truscott's newspaper should have footed the legal bill after she challenged a reporting restriction after the hearing.

Although her application failed, magistrates in Lewes, East Sussex, ruled it was "entirely proper" for The Argus to challenge the Section 39 order after the hearing, as the newspaper had not been present.

Lawyers then asked for a costs order against the paper, which Newsquest's head of legal Simon Westrop said was "alarming and unusual".

If The Argus had lost it would have footed a bill that could have run into thousands of pounds and which Truscott said "set a worrying precedent for newspapers".

After a short telephone briefing with Westrop, Truscott argued in court that it was too costly for papers to face costs for legitimate representations.

She also supported her argument with references to the European Human Rights Act and Judicial Studies Board Guidance notes.

The magistrates were impressed by her case and no costs were imposed against the paper.

Truscott said: "I think they were trying it on a bit really. Newspapers challenge reporting restrictions all the time, and the law encourages us to do so.

"No paper has the resources to attend every court session, so this is the only recourse we have to overturn a publishing ban."

News editor Melanie Dowding added: "Claire single-handedly took on four ferocious lawyers, and although the order was not lifted, she successfully argued against an award of costs against us, which was an extremely important decision."

Truscott had wanted to name four boys given interim antisocial behaviour orders.

At an earlier hearing their identities had already been made public.

Truscott argued their names were already in the public domain and that identifying them was a key aspect of awarding ASBOs.

Two of the boys had approached Truscott for an interview, but their lawyers objected.

Magistrates decided the order should stay in place until the full ASBO hearing due to its interim nature.

Truscott added: "In the end, it looks like we can probably publish after the boys' final hearing.

"And we will not be saddled with a legal bill, so I am hugely relieved and pleased."

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