Sex pest victim goes public after paper's court victory

 

The Macclesfield Express has won its appeal to allow the schoolgirl victim of a sex phone pest to waive her right to anonymity.

The removal of a section 39 order (designed to protect minors from identification) imposed by the town’s magistrates allowed 13-year-old Sara Hawley and her parents to speak out in the newspaper about her ordeal.

The Express, which pursued the application on the girl’s behalf in spite of a ruling by the Crown Prosecution Service that the bench had no power to lift the order, felt it to be a triumph.

A barrister, Paul Holmes, argued for the newspaper that the wording of the Children and Young Persons Act section did contain provision to lift the order. "This in itself is is an important matter to establish for the Macclesfield Express and, indeed, the whole of the rest of the press," he said.

Sara’s mother Helen explained to the bench: "We are not a publicity-seeking family. We don’t want to hawk Sara around the press.

"Sara wants to say to other children, ‘if something like this happens, don’t treat it as a joke – tell your parents, tell a teacher, tell the police; don’t allow yourself to be treated like this’," she said.

Magistrates’ chairman Neil Evans, lifting the order, said: "On the evidence before us today, we find that there are exceptional circumstances and that they have been expressed by Sara through her mother.

"We understand that Sara is adamant the blanket of anonymity be lifted… and we believe to do so would be part of the healing process."

Express assistant editor Pat Hills said: "We feel justice has been served. It was a frustrating business at first for both ourselves and Sara and her parents. They were particularly baffled by the initial court decision.

"Our barrister established a principle which will have a long-term effect."

Hills said that she was delighted to have backing from her company for the challenge.

"It reflected the faith it has in the job we do in providing the best possible coverage of human interest stories for our readers," she said.

Editor Mike Quilley said: "It was a great victory for common sense. The family rightly thought they had been unfairly treated by the courts. Their human rights were violated. Our action succeeded in restoring those rights."

By Jean Morgan

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