Fair enough not to name stabbing suspect child - but wrong to say it was for 'legal reasons'

It’s been interesting to see how the national media have handled the issue of identifying the boy charged with the murder of Leeds schoolteacher Ann Maguire.
Only the Sun named him. They followed the legal line I explained in this blog on Tuesday.

They said it was in the public interest, and added: “We remain committed to informing our readers of the whole story where we are free to do so."

Personally, I believe they made the right call. If a crime is so serious that the Prime Minister describes it, pre-trial, as "truly shocking and appalling" in Parliament, then the public interest speaks for itself.

Other media made a different decision. Fair enough in our timid post-Leveson climate.

But I was puzzled why they all said: "The boy cannot be named for legal reasons."

This simply wasn’t true. Anyone who’s done an NCTJ law exam recently could tell you that. And it’s not as if national media are short of a lawyer or two.

Why didn’t they gain some praise from Hacked Off et al, and say: "We have chosen not to name the boy for ethical reasons", or "We are not naming him because we are placing the interests of the boy ahead of our readers’ legal right to know."

Reporting news the boy had been charged last night The Guardian said: "The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons…"

But on Tuesday, Roy Greenslade said in his Guardian blog: "It is not unlawful to name a juvenile before a court appearance."

The boy was due to appear in court today.

Cleland Thom is author of the new eBook: Internet law for journalists.

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