A group of news organisations covering a woman’s trial for attempted murder have joined forces to successfully lift a ban on naming her children.
Journalists from the Press Association, the Daily Mail, BBC South and ITV Meridian challenged the order in the case of Donna Sheppard-Saunders, who was appearing at Lewes Crown Court on a charge of attempting to murder her 54-year-old mother Pamela Sheppard in the bedroom they shared in Petworth, West Sussex, on 15 September last year.
Judge Charles Kemp originally made an order under section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 following a request yesterday from defence counsel Jane Humphryes QC.
Humphryes told Kemp that previous reporting of the case had led to her client’s children being taunted in their small community. She said the children were vulnerable and had had to “suffer the consequences” of past publicity of the case.
Humphryes added that the application for the order was being made on behalf of a children’s social worker, and that it was acknowledged that the children were not witnesses and were not referred to in the case.
The judge made a temporary section 39 order, saying he wanted to give the media time to make representations.
The group of journalists drafted a challenge, arguing that the judge had no power to impose a section 39 order to cover the children as they were not “concerned in the proceedings” in the manner required by the Act.
They also argued that information about the case was already in the public domain because previous hearings had already been reported.
Shortly afterwards the judge lifted the order, agreeing that it was “inappropriate” because Sheppard-Saunders’ children were not concerned in the case.
Later the judge directed the jury to acquit Sheppard-Saunders, saying there was insufficient evidence to allow the case to go ahead.