A judge has conceded he had no jurisdiction to impose an extension to a court order restricting the identification of child victims.
News Group Newspapers, Surrey and Berkshire Media and Newbury Weekly News were before Judge Gordon Risius’ last Friday for allegedly breaching a section 39 order.
An initial order was imposed in relation to the case of defendants Paul and Rosemary Hampson, who were charged with a number of sexual offences. But an extension also banned publishing the address of the defendants and identifying one of the relatives of some of the victims.
The Sun, Reading Evening Post and Newbury Weekly News were unaware of the extension and breached the restrictions in their reports.
During the hearing, Judge Risius said his options were to take no action or to refer the matter to the CPS.
But CPS representative Alan Blake said it was unlikely it would prosecute. He added the police said there was no evidence of negative consequences by the breaches.
Judge Risius said: “The variation I made during the course of the trial was made without jurisdiction. It is my intention to withdraw that aspect of the order.”
He said the order would now consist solely of the standard prohibition of not naming a young persons’ name, age, school or any particulars that could lead to their identification.
The judge said he still had concerns the reports were still capable of breaching the order because they all mentioned the defendants’ surnames.
Anthony Hudson, representing the newspapers, said: “A fundamental part of open justice is for the defendants to be identified. Section 39 does not exist to prevent people speculating who it [the victims] may or may not be – that would be too great an interference with the open justice principle.”
Judge Risius conceded: “You would have to have some special knowledge and even then you would only be guessing.”