Evening Post puzzled by 'rogue' Section 39 order

South Wales Evening Post Crown Court reporter David O’Callaghan was astonished to find pinned to the press room noticeboard an order banning identification of a 17-year-old defendant – it was made by a judge not involved in the case O’Callaghan was covering.

When the young drugs dealer and his 18-year-old accomplice had first appeared at Swansea Crown Court, his defence barrister did not apply for a Section 39 order and the judge in the case, Recorder of Swansea John Diehl, did not make one. The Post named both defendants on that occasion.

Again, three weeks later when the pair appeared for sentencing before a different judge, Recorder Ian Murphy QC, no order was applied for or made.

The 17-year-old cocaine and heroin dealer was jailed for three-and-a-half years and his partner in crime for 18 months.

O’Callaghan returned to the press room later that day to file his copy, only to find the Section 39 order pinned to the noticeboard. It had been made by Judge Christopher Morton, who was not involved in the case.

“It was imposed after all the parties had left the court building,” said O’Callaghan. “It was made on an interim basis amid fears that there had been an oversight.

“The trouble was the order was made on the Thursday afternoon before the Easter holidays and could not be challenged until the following Wednesday morning when the courts reopened.”

The Post ran the story but did not name the defendant. But on the Wednesday afternoon, O’Callaghan notified the court clerks that he was going to apply for the order to be lifted. At a special hearing before Judge Murphy that day, the order was quashed. The Recorder said there was “legitimate public interest in knowing the outcome of the proceedings”.

Jonathan Isaacs, the Post’s head of news, said: “This case clearly shows how careful the press have to be in naming juveniles in adult courts.”

By Jean Morgan

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