Judge overturns magistrates' ban on naming 3-year-old alleged murder victim after journalists protest

 

An anonymity order made by magistrates to ban the press from naming a three-year child alleged murder victim was overturned by a District Judge after protests from journalists.

The order, under section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, was made on Monday by Sheffield magistrates when Delroy Catwell appeared in court charged with murdering little Lylah Aaron in the city's Shiregreen area.
Catwell, 30, of Beck Road, Sheffield, had been charged with murder just hours earlier by South Yorkshire Police, soon after Lylah died after having been taken to hospital.

The magistrates sent Catwell's case to the Crown Court. They also agreed to make the section 39 anonymity order, which they did without giving journalists in court the opportunity to make representations.

But a second hearing, in front of District Judge Anthony Browne, was then arranged after protests from journalists from the Press Association and the Sheffield Star newspaper, who said they wanted to challenge the order.

District Judge Browne heard arguments from prosecution and defence lawyers that the anonymity order should continue although, following an adjournment, both sides later conceded that the legal authorities appeared to be against them.

He also heard representations from Press Association journalist Dave Higgens, who argued that the court did not have the power to make a section 39 order in respect of a dead child. District Judge Browne lifted the order.

The purpose of section 39 was to protect a child involved in the case from further harm and "sadly" that could not be relevant to a deceased child, he said.

He also referred to guidance entitled Reporting Restrictions in the Criminal Courts issued by the Judicial College - formerly the Judicial Studies Board - which clearly states that section 39 orders may only be made in relation to living children.

Lifting the order, he said: "The order was made mistakenly by the court."

Media Lawyer comments: "This is yet another example of an order which seems to have been made by a court which exercised a power without first considering the possibility that it was unnecessary.

"The magistrates also ignored a large number of authorities which say that it is a good idea for courts considering imposing an order restricting reporting of proceedings to seek the views of the press.

"For example, in R v Clerkenwell Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrates Ex Parte The Telegraph ([1993] 2 WLR 233) it was said that the media was best placed to represent the public interest in publicity, which the court has to take into account when balancing the public interest in an open trial against the possibility of substantial risk of prejudice.

"The Judicial College guidance was published in October 2009 - more than three years ago - yet one still gets the feeling that the majority of courts have not encountered it, let alone bothered to read it."

 

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