News reporter overturns order to name father

A reporter on the Milton Keynes weekly mk news has successfully challenged a court order that would have made it impossible to report on a father who threw his six-week-old baby against a wall.

Its reporter, Daniel Jones, had managed to get a picture of baby Billie Roberts, who doctors say may develop learning disabilities in later life, after tracking down her mother.

Milton Keynes magistrates and a judge at Aylesbury Crown Court had imposed a section 39 order on Billie.

But the mk news reporter wrote a letter to Judge Terence Maher prior to the sentencing of Stephen Roberts for grievous bodily harm arguing the baby could not be affected by adverse publicity.

The letter included examples of previous similar cases and added: “A baby of that age cannot be affected by publicity because it would not be aware of any publicity. The order serves only to protect the defendant – either by leading to a watered down report that misses the gravity of the case and is therefore no longer newsworthy or by preventing his name being published in order to get across the seriousness of the offence. The purpose of a section 39 is not to protect adults.”

The prosecution and the defence did not object to the lifting of the ban.

The judge said the mk news challenge was “very well argued” and lifted the order on Billie.

David Gale, mk news editor, said: “This was an emotive story that we would not have been able to tell properly if Daniel had not got the order lifted.” Roberts got 30 months.

By Jon Slattery

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