Horrocks: ‘commonsense victory’
MEN: supported by victims
The Manchester Evening News had to persuade a court to reconvene before it could win its fight to name a teenager who left a boy paralysed and a woman badly injured in separate road crashes.
Because of the seriousness of 17-year-old Sajit Hussain’s offences, the MEN asked to be told when he would be in court so that it could ask for the anonymity granted to all youths to be lifted.
But Hussain, who had absconded, was arrested and dealt with by police within 90 minutes – without the paper being told. He was sentenced to 18 months’ youth custody for various driving offences.
Two accidents caused by Hussain had left a five-year-old boy in a wheelchair and a lollipop lady severely injured. The second crash happened while he was banned from driving and he fled without stopping.
MEN editor Paul Horrocks said that the paper was told that it could not challenge the reporting restrictions on juveniles because it was not present in court while the case was being dealt with.
The newsspaper did not take that lying down. Horrocks wrote to the clerk of the Rochdale youth court asking it to be reconvened – and copied the letter to the Home Secretary. Horrocks’ request was granted.
Rochdale magistrates lifted their order after the newspaper’s lawyer argued that the public had a right to know about Hussain because of his appalling record.
Horrocks said: “We felt it was in the public interest because, as this youth has already defied one ban and driven while banned, it was possible that he could do it again when he gets out of prison. If he does it again local people should know what he looks like so that they could report him if he gets into another vehicle because he is such a menace. The court accepted that.”
The paper was supported in its bid to name Hussain by the family of the injured boy, Daniel Hennessy, whose grandparents were in court, and the injured lollipop lady, Audrey Chadwick. She told the MEN: “I’m so glad that people know who this teenager is now. He nearly killed Daniel and me. People need to know who he is. His picture should be all over the newspapers.”
Horrocks added: “I was really pleased, it was a commonsense victory. It shows you can – even after the event – persuade a court to reconvene and reconsider a public interest argument put forward by a newspaper.”
By Jon Slattery