Stewart decided to name the 15-year-old in the Edinburgh Evening News
Two Scottish editors could face prosecution after their daily papers named a 15-year-old schoolboy arrested on a murder charge.
The district procurator fiscal for Edinburgh, William Gallacher, is investigating a potential contravention of Section 47 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 by the Edinburgh Evening News and The Press and Journal, Aberdeen.
He is expected to decide soon whether to prosecute Evening News editor Ian Stewart and Press and Journal editor Derek Tucker.
The youth appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last week charged with murdering Dalkeith schoolgirl Jodi Jones.
Jones, 14, went missing last June after leaving her home to meet her boyfriend. Five hours later her mutilated body was found dumped less than a mile from her home, prompting a huge murder hunt.
The arrest of the 15-year-old was first revealed in a press release from Lothian and Borders Police at 8.38am on Wednesday, 14 April.
The police, in view of the huge publicity surrounding the murder, contacted the Crown Office to warn it to anticipate inquiries from the media.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service took the unusual step of issuing a detailed operational note to the media at 10.45am that same day – confidentially disclosing the accused’s name, home address and age, and stating he would appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court the following day charged with the murder.
The operational note continued: “Given concerns over previous reports naming [accused’s name] as the only suspect in this case, it was thought appropriate to issue this operational note to avoid the risk that criminal proceedings could be prejudiced by speculation over the identity of the person who will appear in this case.
“This information is not for publication or broadcast but is issued purely for the assistance of editors.”
The note then spelt out the legal implications of the case: that any discussion of the evidence could prejudice subsequent proceedings; that Section 47 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act prohibited the identification of any person under the age of 16 concerned in proceedings; and that proceedings were now active in terms of the Contempt of Court Act.
By this time, Evening News editor Stewart, after taking legal advice, had decided to run a page one story naming the accused.
In Aberdeen, The Press and Journal also decided to name the youth in a front-page story, and published a picture of police searching the schoolboy’s home.
The Crown Office said it would investigate the Evening News and Gallacher later confirmed that the Press and Journal story had been brought to his attention.
Neither paper gave the accused’s name in reporting his court appearance the following day, and both subsequently removed from their websites the story in which he was named after his arrest.
The Crown Office’s press office was flooded with complaints from other media organisations after the youth was named in the two newspapers.
WHAT THE TWO EDITORS SAID
Derek Tucker, left, said: “It’s not a decision we took lightly.
Having established that the person accused was [name of accused], a warning came from the Crown Office that he could not be named under Section 47 of the Criminal Procedure Act.
“We had a look, and the provisions apply only to a report of court proceedings. He had not appeared in court, so our advice was Section 47 did not apply.”
Ian Stewart said: “Very early in the morning, as the first edition was going off stone, we got a tip-off that a 15-year-old boy had been arrested and charged in connection with the Jodi Jones murder. We quickly ascertained that we knew who the suspect was.
“In my view, the law concerning the naming of minors in court in Scotland prohibits the naming of a person under 16 in any report of proceedings in a court. We phoned our lawyers and decided to name him.
“The Crown Office guidance didn’t change our decision.”
By Hamish Mackay & Dominic Ponsford