Court blunder over murdered boys

Journalists were astonished when magistrates imposed a Section 39 Order banning publication of the names of the two boys found murdered in a car at a West Midlands golf club.

West Bromwich magistrates took the decision at the first hearing at which Steven Wilson was charged with murdering his sons, Brett, 8, and Brad Lee, 7, who were found stabbed in the car at the Hill Top Golf Club.

The order was made despite clear High Court rulings that such orders should not be used to ban the identification of dead children.

The case had attracted nationwide coverage after the boys’ bodies were discovered and their names and pictures had appeared across the media. If the ban had been allowed to stand, the media would not have been able to name the boys, use pictures or report that Wilson was their father.

Luckily, Express & Star reporter Jo Walker, who was covering the case, had with her a copy of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists. She checked that the order had been wrongly imposed and alerted the court clerk. The magistrates reconvened and lifted the order.

Walker said: "Although West Bromwich magistrates are hot on Section 39 Orders, the last thing I expected was for them invoke it in this case and knew straight away it was not intended for children who had died."

Express & Star deputy editor Richard Ewels told Press Gazette: "It’s amazing we still get cases of magistrates invoking Section 39s on dead children. What makes this case all the more ludicrous is that local and national media had been naming the two boys for a week before the court case, and their photographs had been published in both local and national papers.

"It just goes to show we can’t relax when it comes to courts restricting publicity and we should not hesitate to challenge any inappropriate order."

He added: "At least on this occasion the press were able to back up their challenge with the copy of Essential Law which our reporter Jo conveniently had with her."

By Jon Slattery

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