Judge overturns name ban in fire deaths case

Eight people, including five children, died in the fire

An order forbidding the press from identifying the third man charged in connection with a fire in which eight people, including five children, died has been overturned by a judge after being challenged by PA News.

Magistrates at Huddersfield made an order under Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 forbidding pub-

lication of the name and address of Shaied Iqbal when he made his first appearance in court.

The order was made after the magistrates heard submissions at an in-camera hearing from which the press and public were barred.

Magistrates said that among their reasons for making the order was the risk that publishing Iqbal’s name and address might inadvertently prejudice "as yet unidentified potential witnesses".

But last week, when Iqbal appeared at Leeds Crown Court, Mr Justice Henriques rejected a defence application to keep the order in place and maintain Iqbal’s anonymity.

David Bradshaw, defending, argued that the benefits to justice of keeping his client anonymous outweighed that of "simply publishing his name and address and the benefit of that to the press".

But the judge interrupted, saying: "No, no. It’s not. The ability of the press to report matters of public interest is critical. Once the important cases cannot be reported then the public and the press have a real grievance."

Later the judge added: "The Press Association seeks to report the name and address of this defendant and indeed other defendants in due course. They strenuously oppose the making of this further order pursuant to Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act."

The order was the second to be made by Huddersfield magistrates who ordered a defendant in the fire case to remain anonymous.

The first order was lifted at Bradford Crown Court when the second defendant, Shakiel Shazad, appeared before Judge James Stewart QC.

PA News copy editor Mike Dodd, who wrote both representations to the two courts asking for the anonymity orders to be lifted, said: "I am becoming increasingly concerned at the willingness of magistrates’ courts to make orders forbidding the press from reporting the names or addresses of defendants in criminal cases.

"There is clear guidance in the booklet Reporting Restrictions in the Magistrates’ Court, which states that such orders should be made only when failure to make an order would frustrate or impede the administration of justice.

"But courts seem not to have heard of the booklet. They also seem to be increasingly willing to overrule or ignore the principle of open justice."

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