Police refused to name a couple when they were charged with battering their baby and children neglect – on the grounds that anonymity would be granted when the pair appear in court.
However, Blackpool magistrates in refused to make an anonymity order after a challenge by Watsons News Agency journalist David Graham who argued that three-month-old Thomas Searle was too young to be affected by publicity about the case.
Magistrates were told at a special hearing on Saturday that the baby was fighting for his life in hospital – and that if he survived, he would be blind and suffer from incurable brain damage.
The parents, 19-year-old mother-of-two Kayleigh Searle of Blackpool and her boyfriend Reece Bourne, 18, of Preston, are charged with causing him grievous bodily harm through neglect and assault.
Searle is also charged with perverting the course of justice. The pair was remanded in custody to appear at Preston Crown Court on May 12.
Baby Thomas is critically ill at Royal Manchester Childrens’ Hospital where his mother was allowed to visit him flanked by police officers on Friday night.
If he dies Searle and Bourne are likely to be re-charged with murder.
When they announced on Friday that Searle and Bourne had been charged, Lancashire Police said the force was not naming either of them.
The force said: “In consultation with the CPS, at this stage, the decision has been taken not to name the two people who have been charged.
“The reason for this is because there will be an application made for a Section 39 order at court in the morning which would prevent the baby from being named.
“Hence we will not release any information that could lead to the identification of the baby – including releasing the names of the defendants (as the relationship between them and baby may have previously been reported).”
A CPS spokesperson said: “It was decided not to name the two individuals when they were charged initially until matters had been resolved in court in the morning.
‘This meant a short delay on the identification of the two defendants.
“Where we know there are likely to be applications for reporting restrictions we need to be careful not to pre-empt any discussions or the decision of the court on the effect of those applications.
“Prosecutors are instructed they should oppose reporting restrictions that they do not feel are necessary for a fair trial and should not apply for reporting restrictions themselves unless they feel they are essential. The prosecution did not apply for reporting restrictions in this case.”
It is not unlawful to identify any juvenile who is the alleged victim of a crime, or to identify a juvenile suspect, unless and until the youngster appears in court.
If the case is in an adult court, the court must make a section 39 order to give the child or young person anonymity.
But guidance on such orders states that they must be justified – the individual’s age alone is not a sufficient reason for making one – and that court should remember that very young children cannot be affected by publicity about a case.