Howells: ‘issue I had to challenge’
A judge who banned the naming of a baby girl left blind and disabled in an alleged attack by her father admitted she had been wrong when challenged by an agency reporter.
Judge Suzan Matthews made the Section 39 Order because she feared publicity could affect the future of 18-month-old Crystal Marker.
However, Anita Howells, court reporter for the INS News Group, challenged the order, claiming the baby’s future was not a matter of issue in the trial of her father.
Peter Marker denies causing grievous bodily harm with intent and cruelty to a child.
Howells moved onto the barristers’ bench at Reading Crown Court and made an official application to Judge Matthews for the order to be lifted.
She told Press Gazette: “By imposing the Section 39 Order the court was effectively giving anonymity to the accused. It was an issue I had to challenge, especially after the judge said she was imposing it in consideration of future implications for the child. I contended that the case centred on issues currently before the court and that a baby could not be affected by reporting when it was only 18 months old.”
Judge Matthews considered the appeal over a weekend and then announced she had decided to rescind the ban.
The judge told the court: “It was anticipatory when I made the order. It was made on the basis that the baby could be damaged in the future.
“It was wrong in principle to make the order because I don’t think speculation is sufficient grounds. Representations made on behalf of the Press have validity.”