Child killer Mary Bell and her teenage daughter returned to the High Court this week in a bid to extend a permanent gag on the press revealing anything that would identify them, in order to protect them from harassment and attack.
But they will have to wait until after Easter to hear if they have been successful, as High Court president, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, said she would need time after the scheduled three-day hearing to consider her ruling in the case. Although the court heard that the Attorney-General was not totally opposed to an injunction on narrow terms, he has stepped in to ensure that the case is fully argued in the public interest and to ensure that the injunction is shown to be “strictly justified”.
Bell, who was convicted when 11-years-old of the manslaughter of Martin Brown, four, and Brian Howe, three, was detained until she was released on licence when she was 23 years of age.
She has been given a new identity and has lived in anonymity with her daughter, who turns 19 next month.
Both of them are protected from being identified by wide-ranging court orders which were aimed at giving the daughter anonymity until she turned 18.
These orders were temporarily extended pending the outcome of the proceedings, in which lawyers for both are seeking to extend the injunction indefinitely to protect their identities and whereabouts from being revealed.
Mary Bell’s counsel, Edward Fitzgerald QC, told the court that both women continue to face a “serious risk of harassment and attack”.
In the circumstances of what he called a “unique case”, he said that a permanent injunction was justified to protect the two women’s human rights to life, freedom from degrading treatment and respect for private and family life.
He said the factors which made the case unique included the fact that there was no longer any opposition by the media industry to the injunction moves.
By Roger Pearson