Echo overturns identity order

The Sunderland Echo overturned a court anonymity order two weeks after it was made to protect the identity of a nursery school assistant convicted of assault.

The case was originally covered by an agency reporter, who failed to make a challenge when the judge imposed an order under section four of the 1981 Contempt of Court Act.

But after writing to the court, the Echo secured a separate hearing at which the order was retracted.

Kelly White, 20, of Farringdon in Sunderland, had pleaded guilty to four charges of common assault against children between the ages of nine and 12 months, and was sentenced to a 12-month community rehabilitation order. At the end of the hearing the judge decided to continue indefinitely a Section 4 Order made previously.

The reason originally given for the order had been to protect the identity of children in the woman’s care.

Deputy news editor John Howe challenged by sending a letter to the court. A hearing was arranged nearly a fortnight later in the chambers of Judge David Hodson involving Howe, Echo solicitor Bruce Howorth, the CPS and a solicitor for the nursery.

The paper agreed it would not publish the names of children involved in the assaults, or the name of the nursery where the assaults occurred, but it could publish all other details, many of which were in the public domain from previous coverage.

It was argued on behalf of the nursery that White’s name should be withheld because it would lead to the identification of the nursery. Judge David Hodson rejected this submission and made an order in the limited terms accepted by the paper.

Howe said: “It was a matter of public interest and it would have set a dangerous precedent. If the judge saw fit to extend section four because the defendant worked in a nursery, we felt where would it stop?”

By Dominic Ponsford

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