Media name ban refused for footballer in blackmail case

The media were able to name premiership footballer Stephen Ireland as the victim of an alleged blackmail bid after prosecution lawyers forgot to ask the court to make an anonymity order.

Ireland was named in open court when bus driver Paul Smith appeared before Manchester City magistrates on 13 March on a charge of demanding £20,000 from the player after finding his iPod.

A prosecution lawyer later applied to another District Judge at the same court centre for an order under section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, arguing that as the Press Association has not yet transmitted the story to subscribers the footballer’s name was not in the public domain.

But District Judge Alan Berg refused to make an order, saying that once the information had been given in open court it could not be the subject of such an order.

Smith, 29, of Stockport, Cheshire, who is accused of demanding money with menaces between 26 and 30 January, was given conditional bail.

Ireland, a £40,000-a-week Premiership midfielder and former Republic of Ireland international, was not in court for the hearing.

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