Papers join to fight paedophile's anonymity

A judge has banned the press from naming a father-of-two who admitted 20 child porn charges, despite the fact his name had already been read out in open court.

Rivals the Croydon Advertiser and the Croydon Guardian have joined forces to insist that Judge Warwick McKinnon allows the media to name the man.

The judge imposed an order under section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, which bans the reporting of the defendant’s name or any detail relating to his private life to protect his two children.

The name of the 45-year-old man from south London, and the fact he has two daughters, had been read out in open court previously.

The man was found guilty and given a community service order last week.

Advertiser editor Ian Carter said the order was the strangest he had ever seen.

“It’s very worrying and we cannot see any basis for it in law.

“We are determined to fight this. It would set a very dangerous precedent but we are confident we can get it overturned.”

Trinity Mirror, which owns the Advertiser, Newsquest, owner of the Guardian, Times Newspapers and News Group are all fighting the ruling and are represented by barrister Anthony Hudson.

Last Thursday Hudson argued in Croydon Crown Court that the order was unlawful, because the defendant’s name had not been withheld.

The judge said that while the ban on naming the defendant technically could be lifted, it should stay in place to protect his children.

McKinnon said: “The absence of any specific order preventing the naming of the defendant does not mean that in the absence of the order the press therefore would be able to name the defendant.

“They would have to take a judgment as to whether naming the defendant would inevitably lead to the naming of the children. It inevitably would. The press do not have to name every case that comes into court – indeed, most cases are not even reported,” he said.

“If I lift the order, leaving no embargo on naming the defendant, that does not mean that they can name the defendant because doing so would identify the children.”

The two Croydon newspapers were successful earlier this month in persuading McKinnon to overturn another order banning identification of the man, under section four of the Contempt of Court Act, that was made in December by another judge.

Judge McKinnon’s ruling is expected on Friday.

psmith@pressgazette.co.uk

BACKGROUND

Contempt of Court

Section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 gives courts the power to ban the press from reporting all or part of proceedings or to postpone a case to avoid a substantial risk of serious prejudice to the administration of justice.

Section 11 orders prevent the reporting of names or any other detail that has been withheld from the public. The section was designed to protect victims of blackmail and anyone involved in national security.

Challenges In a landmark case, the Divisional Court ruled in 1985 in R v Arundel Justices that a court had no power to make a section 11 order unless it had first withheld it from the public.

In 1999 a man accused at Southwark Crown Court of stealing from a prostitute applied to have his name and address withheld under section 11, but a barrister for News Group Newspapers successfully argued that the order was invalid.

The recorder sitting in the case said that even if the press bench had been empty, he would have still have quashed the order.

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