Isle of Man paper wins right to speak in court

Isle of Man Newspapers has persuaded a court to take representations from the media over orders protecting children. Previously, it had tried and failed.

In a landmark case last Friday, IoM deemster (judge) Michael Kerruish backed down over his ruling earlier in the week that the Isle of Man Examiner could not challenge an order made under Section 34 of the Manx Children and Young Persons’ Act.

Deputy editor Jo Overty wrote to the deemster to challenge the order, made a year ago when baby batterer Shaun Kewley stood trial in September 2001 accused of committing grievous bodily harm with intent on his six-month-old son.

The Examiner urged the deemster to revoke the order when Kewley appeared before the Court of General Gaol Delivery for sentencing.

The newspaper argued that, after the conviction, detectives had warned that Kewley, 33, should be kept away from young children, and yet it could not tell the public who he was.

It pointed out Kewley was named when, in 1991, he was jailed for three years for GBH on his daughter, then also six months old.

The Examiner, part of Johnston Press, also argued the now widely accepted principle that the latest victim was too young to be affected by publicity surrounding the case.

The deemster had initially ruled that the newspaper’s letter was not valid as a challenge and it could not give its views to the court. That left the paper just over an hour to find an advocate.

Andrew Bridson, for the newspaper, rushed to the court but unsuccessfully challenged the ruling.

However, the deemster adjourned sentencing for four days and last Friday accepted Bridson’s arguments.

Revoking his order, the deemster said a report naming Kewley "would provide people with a true picture and avoid speculation and misunderstanding".

He added: "The court will be able to take representations from those persons who have a legitimate interest in a Section 34 matter. To my mind the court would be entitled to turn to and ask the professional journalist what his view is."

Overty said: "The situation was extremely frustrating. Not only were we being prevented from naming a repeat offender but the court ruled we had no right to challenge the order ourselves.

"The deemster clearly read up on media law between Monday and Friday and conceded he could hear journalists’ opinions on orders."

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