Council injunctions are a threat to open justice

As if a regional editor’s life wasn’t difficult enough already when it comes to naming criminals in print, a new hurdle is beginning to appear on the obstacle course of open justice: the council injunction.

Gerry Keighley at the South Wales Argus has already been tripped up by them on more than one occasion – and he fears that councils across the country will increasingly use them to put in the way of their local media.

Having already jumped through the hoops required to overturn a Section 39 order that prevented the Argus from naming a man who had broken his son’s skull, Keighley found himself slapped with an injunction from the council.

Even though the court had decided the child was young enough not be harmed by the publicity from the case, the council wanted to protect his identity because he had been put into foster care.

Had it been enforced, the injunction would have stopped the Argus publishing the name of the father who had committed such an atrocious crime.

In this case the council failed on a technicality, but on two previous occasions in the past six months, such injunctions have been successful against the paper. That’s two more criminals whose crimes have not been exposed to the glare of publicity in their local communities. That’s also a hefty legal bill that the Argus had to pick up for challenging one of the injunctions.

And, as Keighley points out, it’s not hard to see how a council could use these powers to make sure its own failings in cases involving children were not highlighted by the press.

That simply cannot be what the law intends.

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