New act supports naming of youths in breach of ASBOs

By Dominic Ponsford

Regulations have come into force making it easier for the media to name youths who breach anti-social behaviour orders.

Before 1 July, reporters covering ASBO breach proceedings at youth
courts had to wait until defendants admitted the crime, or were
convicted of doing so, before they could apply to have the automatic
Section 49 reporting restrictions lifted.

Now the Serious
Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 has come into force stipulating
that automatic youth court anonymity no longer applies in proceedings
for breach of ASBOs.

Nigel Hanson, from law firm Foot Anstey’s media team, explained the implications of the change.

He
said: “It was often an uphill struggle to persuade youth court
magistrates to allow defendants to be identified. If the magistrates
declined to lift the automatic restriction, reporters had to tiptoe
gingerly around the facts of the case, avoiding any reference to the
criminal proceedings and merely identifying the youths as being subject
to civil ASBOs – assuming, of course, that the magistrates had not
limited reporting of even the civil aspect of the case with a
discretionary reporting restriction under Section 39 of the Children
and Young Persons Act.

“The distinction between the criminal and
civil aspects of the proceedings left reporters with a highly
artificial situation in which youths could be freely identified as
troublemakers who had been involved in many deplorable incidents, but
not identified as ASBO-breachers.

“Youth courts might still try
to snuff out publicity using discretionary powers to restrict reporting
under Section 39, but in enacting SOCPA, Parliament has sent a clear
signal to them that there is now a presumption that no reporting
restrictions should be imposed in relation to youths charged with
breaching ASBOs.”

Hanson added: “In particular, the new law will
enable local newspapers to publish more reports and photographs of the
hard core of mischief-makers who persistently breach ASBOs. Reporters
and editors alike will welcome the shift towards more open justice.”

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