Judge lifts gagging order in cruelty case

Bedfordshire on Sunday reporter Daniel Jones was instrumental in getting a court order lifted which banned the identification of a mother who left her baby son alone at home for two days.

A story concerning the mother had appeared in the local press, radio and TV, but every report had used the same phrase “The mother cannot be identified due to an order of the court”.

BoS editor Steve Lowe asked if this was correct, and Jones, believing it not to be valid, immediately wrote to the judge.

As a result, the order was lifted and Bedfordshire on Sunday was able to name Chantelle James, 31, who had admitted cruelty to her baby.

Two-month-old Malachi is now dead but forsensic pathologists have not been able to establish a cause of death.

Jones pointed out in his letter that courts do not have the power to impose such orders against dead children because the High Court has ruled the practice unlawful.

Section 39 orders, under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, are designed to protect children involved in court proceedings from adverse publicity ‘before the benefit or burden of adulthood’.

Luton Crown Court manager Kim Bray said: “There was an order made in January [by Bedford magistrates] but because the child died that is no longer valid.”

James lived in Bedford at the time of the incident but has since moved to Northampton.

She appeared at Luton Crown Court last week and pleaded guilty to a charge of cruelty, between September 13 and 15 last year, likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health.

The case was adjourned until 4 August for the preparation of a pre- sentence report, when the full facts of the case will be outlined.

The court agreed to remand James on bail until the hearing takes place.

By Jean Morgan

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