Newsquest challenges court gagging order on adult defendant

Newspaper group Newsquest challenged an order under section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 which purported to prohibit the identification of an adult defendant.

The order prohibiting the identification of 35-year-old Gil Magira was made by Judge Roger Chapple at a hearing at the Old Bailey on September 7.

But it was amended by Mr Recorder Oliver Sells at a hearing at the Old Bailey on December 7 after representations by Newsquest in-house lawyer Priya Lakhani.

Section 39 gives adult courts the power to prohibit reporting of the name and other details of children and young people who are involved in their proceedings.

Ms Lakhani, representing Newsquest’s Hendon Times series of newspapers, told the judge that the Court of Appeal had held in R v Southwark Crown Court ex parte Godwin ([1991] 3 WLR 686; [1991] 3 All ER 818) that a section 39 order could not be used specifically to prohibit the identification of an adult defendant.

In addition, she argued, the child covered by the order was not “concerned in the proceedings” as was required by the Act, as the youngster was not “the person by or against or in respect of whom” the proceedings were brought, and was not a witness.

The child was also extremely young – too young to be affected by any publicity about the case.

Orders of the kind made by the court inhibited court reporting – the press had to be able to publish the defendant’s name in order to set the story in its proper context and to demonstrate that justice was being done in public, she said.

The defence also asked the judge to issue a direction that naming Magira would automatically identify the child.

But Ms Lakhani argued against this, saying it was quite possible to report the proceedings and name the defendant without identifying the child, and that while a court could offer guidance as to how one might comply with an order, it could not include such guidance within an order’s terms.

The judge refused to give the direction the defence sought, saying: “In some cases the court gives direction. I am not sure of the force of such directions, which are helpfully or otherwise intended to explain court orders.”

He would consider the question of the appropriateness of the amended order when Magira was sentenced in February, he added.

Magira, of Hendon, north London, has admitted unlawfully supplying a poison or other noxious substance “intended to be unlawfully used or employed with intent to procure the miscarriage of a woman”.

He had initially denied the offence but changed his plea at the December 7 hearing.

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