Crawley News production ed fined £1,000 over picture of Asbo youth

A journalist who was fined £1,000 after being convicted of publishing a picture of a teenager who had appeared in a Youth Court is to appeal.

Sherif El-Alfry, production editor at Reigate-based East Surrey and Sussex News and Media, was prosecuted over an edition of the Crawley News published in October last year.

The edition carried a story about a youth who had appeared in a Youth Court, and was the subject of an application for an Asbo – antisocial behaviour order.

The story was accompanied by a picture showing the teenager, with his eyes and nose blacked out. But his mouth and hair were visible, and led to claims that he could be identified.

District Judge Roger Ede convicted El-Alfry, who had denied a charge of publishing a picture in contravention of section 49 (1) (b) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, fining him £1,000 and ordering him to pay £500 costs, at a hearing at Hasting Magistrates’ Court on November 11.

El-Alfry, who was defended by media law specialist barrister Antony Hudson, had argued in his defence that the prosecution was being brought against the wrong person.

Section 49 (1) (a) of the 1933 Act gives any juvenile appearing in a Youth Court automatic anonymity, while section 49 (1) (b) bans the publication of any picture “being or including a picture of any child or young person concerned in the proceedings”.

Section 49 (9) says that if a published report includes information or a picture in contravention of section 49 (1), then “the following persons, that is to say … in the case of publication of a written report or a picture as part of a newspaper, any proprietor, editor or publisher of the newspaper …” are liable to prosecution and a fine of up to £5,0000 on summary conviction.

Hudson argued before District Judge Ede that the wording of section 49 (9) was clearly intended to mean the person normally known as the editor of a newspaper – that is, the person with ultimate editorial responsibility for what was published.

In this case, Hudson argued, that person would be the editor-in-chief of the group.

The group’s structure meant that each newspaper had a content editor, who decided what would be used.

Production of pages for all of the group’s 17 titles was handled by El-Alfry, the group’s production editor, and a team of sub-editors, who were based at the East Surrey and Sussex News and Media offices in Reigate.

While El-Alfry saw the final versions of pages, he was not the person with ultimate editorial responsibility.

The prosecution had argued that El-Alfry could be prosecuted, as he was the editor with responsibility for the page, and that the Act did not specify that the person to be prosecuted had to be the Editor rather than a departmental editor.

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