Naming victory for Kent reporter

Kent Messenger Group court reporter Keith Hunt successfully challenged a gagging order protecting a charity boss cleared of sex abuse charges.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Aikens said defendants in sexual offences cases had no right to anonymity and the charity was unlikely to be seriously affected by the publicity.

An order made by West Kent magistrates under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 had prevented David Praill’s name, address, and employment as chief executive of London-based charity Help the Hospices from being published.

The order was renewed at Maidstone Crown Court.

George Carter-Stephenson, QC, defending, argued Praill had a right to “protect his job and the interests for whom he works”. The charity also opposed the order being lifted.

Mr Justice Aikens said he had to have regard to Praill’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

He told the court that reporter Hunt had submitted that it was very much in the public interest to know that a trial of this nature had taken place, who the defendant was, what his background was and the outcome.

The judge added: “The position of the defendant in sexual offences cases is that defendants have no right of anonymity, even when they have been completely acquitted of the allegations.

“That is the subject of lively public debate at the moment. But inmy view, the law is clear.”

The judge said trials were conducted in public because it was a cardinal rule of English law that justice must not only be done but be seen to be done.

Reporter Hunt said: “It is gratifying that the judge consulted the press on the matter and listened to what we had to say. It is even more gratifying that we won the day in the face of opposition from experienced and highly paid lawyers.”

Ron Green, the Kent Messenger Group’s editorial manager, said: “Keith did not want to let this one go and his persistence paid off.”

Praill, 47, faced one charge of rape and eight of indecent assaults involving two girls. The allegations dated back to his teens. At the end of the prosecution case the judge ruled there was no case to answer on four charges and “stayed” the other five.

By Jon Slattery

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