Reporter wins right to name teen impostor

The Eastbourne Herald successfully challenged a Section 49 order to name a teenager who used his sea cadet uniform and carried a truncheon to pretend he was a police officer.

The case involved Christopher Dooley, who pleaded guilty at Eastbourne Magistrates Court to carrying an offensive weapon and impersonating a police officer. He said in a report: "It’s all part of my fantasy world."

Senior reporter Claire Watson raised the issue with the legal adviser prior to the case. She pointed out that although Dooley was 17 when he committed the offence, he had recently turned 18.

In court Watson reinforced her argument, adding that publication of the name was a matter of public interest and that doing so would act as a deterrent to others, part of the reasons given in the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 for lifting reporting restrictions.

Dooley’s defence and the youth offending team said naming the defendant would have a detrimental impact on him.

On lifting the order, the magistrates said: "The fact is the defendant is now 18. Publication of the offences can be considered to be in the public interest."

Watson added: "The nature of these reporting restrictions is that they protect a child under 18. Dooley was 17 years old when he committed the offences, but had turned 18 by the time it came to sentencing.

"His offence of pretending to be a police officer — someone in a position of trust and responsibility — reversed that need for protection, in my eyes, to a need to inform the public."

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