A news reporter for Anglia Television successfully overturned a court order that stopped the media revealing the identity of a pupil who accused her teacher of “religiously aggravated assault”.
Piers Hopkirk, who covered the trial and subsequent acquittal of Peterborough teacher Hazel Dick on 11 March, applied with the Press Association to lift a Section 39 order that stopped the press identifying the girl or her school.
The order, imposed at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court, was amended by Judge Nicholas Coleman to restrict disclosure of just the girl’s name. But once Dick was acquitted, Hopkirk applied for the order to be lifted completely.
The girl, Seleena Sabeel, who turned 16 during the trial, had accused the teacher of scratching her neck with a pin as she pulled off her headscarf.
The prosecuting barrister said the girl “and children in general, had the right within the act to call upon the law to give them protection in their formative years” and as she had “a poor disciplinary record, naming her would not help put her back on the right track”.
But Hopkirk insisted there was a public interest issue in revealing Sabeel’s identity. The trial showed her to be a “problem child on the verge of expulsion” from the school.
The judge later ruled it was “right and proper” to exercise his discretion and remove the naming ban.
“Once Miss Dick was acquitted though we felt it was in the public interest for the order to be lifted.
After all, this girl was in the jury’s eyes a liar and had been allowed to make a false allegation protected by a cloak of anonymity,” Hopkirk told Press Gazette.
By Wale Azeez