Judge grants right to report on High Court murder trial

By Roger Pearson

Moves which could have stifled reporting of an horrific murder trial have been rejected by one of the country’s top judges.

The trial involves a husband accused of murdering his wife whose
dismembered remains were found in a freezer at the home she had shared
with him.

However, the couple had a six-yearold daughter and
during High Court care proceedings in relation to her, an anonymity
order was made to protect her from being identified in those
proceedings.

But the terms of the order, intended to protect the
child from being named in relation to the High Court Family Division
hearing, left it unclear whether or not the order also prevented the
naming of the father in relation to the criminal proceedings.

The question of the effect of the order was first raised by the Press Association’s Mike Dodd and Times Newspapers.

Now
after a full hearing, this time brought at the instigation of Times
Newspapers Limited, News Group Newspapers, Associated Newspapers
Limited and Mirror Group Newspapers, Sir Mark Potter, president of the
Family Division, has ruled that there is no justification for an order
blocking reporting of the criminal case.

He said the local
authority concerned had taken the view that the order in question did
effectively block reporting of the criminal proceedings.However, he
decided this was not the case. Then counsel for the local authority
argued that reporting of the criminal case would interfere with the
child’s European Convention rights to privacy and family life, and had
sought a fresh injunction which would effectively block reporting of
the criminal proceedings.

Rejecting that move, Sir Mark said in
reasons just given: “I was not prepared to grant such an injunction
because it did not seem to me that the evidence revealed circumstances
of such an exceptional or compelling nature as would justify ordering
anonymity in respect of the father.”

He said every case had to be treated according to its particular facts in order to carry out the balancing act involved.

“Unusual
and sensational as the facts of this case may be, the proposed
identification of the defendant in connection with the criminal
proceedings cannot be shown either to cause or create serious, let
alone irremediable, damage to G [his daughter] in the enjoyment of her
private or family life,” he said.

“It is certainly far from
sufficient to outweigh the plain and substantial interference with the
right of the press to identify the father and otherwise to report the
criminal proceedings in which he is being tried.”

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