Judge backs down after agency protest

By Dominic Ponsford

A judge who tried to grant anonymity to three men accused of
abducting and attempting to rape a schoolgirl was forced to back down
after a news agency told him he was acting outside the law.

The no-names ruling followed submissions from defence barristers at
Snaresbrook Crown Court who said identifying their clients could reveal
the identity of the complainant.

Reporter Joe Lumley, from agency
Central News, spoke to the court when the order was made last Thursday,
explaining why it was unlawful. But the judge refused to back down,
prompting Lumley’s editor, Scott Wilford, to lodge a written protest
with the court.

Wilford said: “We brought his attention to that
fact that the Sexual Offences Amendment Act gives complainants lifelong
anonymity in all sex cases. We felt if this had been allowed to go
ahead, it would have set a dangerous precedent. We cover these sort
ofcases every day and we’ve never come across an order like this
before.”

Changing his decision, Judge O’Mahony said: “On
reflection, it seems to me I have no powers to make such an order under
the Sexual Offenders Amendment Act, so it is a matter for the press.

“I
recognise the legitimate public interest of the press in the
proceedings of courts and their right to publish the identity of
defendants.”

Judge O’Mahony said he was surprised at the
barristers’ submissions because the defendants were “complete
strangers” to the complainant.

It was alleged the teenager was
bundled into the back of a car, then driven across London before being
taken to a room at Heathrow’s Arora Hotel, where she was allegedly
attacked.

Two days into the trial, Judge O’Mahony directed the
acquittal of the three men after the girl refused to complete her
evidence via a video link.

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