Chronicle exposes violent teenager

A teenager responsible for a series of violent offences was exposed to the public after an appeal by Newcastle Evening Chronicle reporter Sarah Knapton.

Jonathan Petch, 17, went on the rampage with a bat and attacked hotel and railway staff after he was cornered for stealing from rail passengers.

At a sentencing hearing, Knapton told the clerk that she intended to challenge the automatic anonymity given to juveniles appearing at youth court.

She then found herself having to address the bench in a mini-hearing on the matter.

She said: “I told them that he was a persistent offender, these were serious offences and telling the public might stop further offending. The defence objected and said that we were just doing it to sell papers but the magistrate came back and lifted the order.”

Making her case, Knapton cited the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997, which states magistrates have the right to lift a juvenile’s anonymity if they believe it is in the public interest to do so.

Chairman of the bench Jim Kershaw said: “We have had to balance two conflicting concerns, but in the exceptional circumstances we think the public should be aware of the identity of Jonathan Petch.

“We do not see it is an extra punishment that the public is informed of the name and identity of someone who poses a real risk to persons trying to work for the benefit of the public.

“The incidents at the hotel and on the train were particularly serious.

“Offences against the public, and people doing their jobs for the public’s benefit, we take extremely seriously.

We have a duty to protect the public from assaults and from harm.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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