Judge lifts anonymity in school bomb plot case

Journalists were able to name a teenage boy accused of plotting a Columbine-style school massacre after a judge agreed to amend an order banning his identification following submissions from the Press Association.

Ross McKnight, 16, who is now on trial at Manchester Crown Court, had been given anonymity by an order under section 39 of the Children and Young Person’s Act, made at an earlier hearing in the proceedings.

Mike Dodd, legal editor of the Press Association, wrote to the judge before the trial of McKnight and co-defendant Matthew Swift, 18, which started yesterday, asking for the order to be amended so that both defendants and the school could be identified.

He argued that McKnight’s name and that of the school targeted – Audenshaw High School, Greater Manchester – were already widely known locally.

The court heard the school itself had made announcements and sent letters to parents following the boys’ arrests.

He argued that leaving the anonymity order in place would make it impossible properly to explain the relationship between the two defendants – both had been pupils at the school – and the ways in which they were alleged to have plotted the attack.

He also argued the public interest in full reporting of the case, and the magnitude of the allegations against the defendants, outweighed any need for McKnight to be given anonymity.

Oral submissions were also made in court by PA reporters Pat Hurst and Lucy Collins.

Judge Justice Royce said a ban on naming McKnight and the school would “disembowel” any story the press attempted to write about the case.

There was, he said, a “powerful public interest” in lifting the order as the consequences of the alleged attack “would have been truly appalling”.

He added that McKnight’s name and that of the school were to an extent already in the public domain and known widely in the local area.

He amended the order so that McKnight and the school could be named but ruled that the media could not publish the address of either defendant.

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