Automatic youth court anonymity has been partially lifted by the Government under the terms of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act.
The new law, which is now in force, allows journalists to name juveniles when an Anti-Social Behaviour Order, or ASBO, is made against them in youth court. But the new rules apply only under limited circumstances.
ASBOs are injunctions normally brought out to ban an individual from entering a certain area.
They are often brought out by local authorities and are usually made in civil courts where juveniles have no automatic right to anonymity.
The provisions of the new act apply to youth courts where an ASBO is made as part of the magistrate’s sentence.
From now on, for the part of the hearing where the ASBO is being discussed, juveniles have lost the right to automatic youth court anonymity.
However, any previous part of the hearing is still covered by youth court anonymity. So journalists will not be able to report the offences that have led to the ASBO being imposed unless they are discussed in the ASBO section of the hearing.
As was previously the case, juveniles who appear in youth court charged with breaching an ASBO do not have automatic anonymity.
Under the new act magistrates in youth courts still have the power to make an order under Section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act to protect a child’s identity.
Newspaper Society head of political and legal affairs Santha Rasaiah said: “We welcome the move forward although there are still reporting restrictions. We hope that magistrates will take account of the fact that legislation is there to allow people who have been made the subject of Antisocial Behaviour Order to be named, not make Section 39 orders unless strictly necessary.”
Rasaiah emphasised that where judges do make Section 39 orders journalists still have the right to challenge them by making an approach to the court clerk.
In the White Paper stage of the bill the Government had proposed a complete lifting of Youth Court anonymity in the case of ASBOs. But MPs successfully argued that judges should retain the right to exercise their discretion by imposing Section 39 restrictions.
Other clauses in the Anti-Social Behaviour Act include: restrictions on airguns and replica weapons, bans on the sale of high-powered air guns new powers for local authorities to impose ASBOs on nuisance neighbours.
By Dominic Ponsford