Judge makes 'no-names' order for dead child

A district judge made an order banning the press from reporting the identity of a dead child when her uncle appeared in court charged with having raped and murdered her.

District judge Christopher Darnton, sitting at Leeds Magistrates' Court, made the order at the start of a hearing on February 15 when Michael Mullen, 21, appeared charged with the rape and murder of his two-year-old niece, Casey Leigh Mullen.

The judge then refused to listen to representations from the press – and at one point after the hearing had ended told reporters to leave the court.

Darnton said at the start of the hearing that he was making a section 39 order against the media.

Journalists in court, who believed no order could be made in respect of a dead child, immediately raised their hands in an attempt to attract the judge's attention, but he failed to respond.

PA reporter Joe Sinclair, one of the reporters who protested, said: "He did not expand any further on this, and failed to say why he was making the order, what it meant the media could or could not report, or who exactly it referred to."

After the hearing, a number of reporters approached the court clerk in front of the bench to ask for some explanation of what the order meant but the judge told them to leave the court.

The journalists then asked the usher to let the judge know that they wanted to make representations as soon as possible.

Darnton said that "in cases like this it's usual to make such orders", but then said he would be willing to lift it if the Crown and defence had no objections.

Both the prosecution and defence said they would not object as the child had already been named in media reports of her death and the proceedings against her uncle.

Guidelines published by the Judicial Studies Board, which were sent to magistrates' courts in England and Wales, state: "Orders cannot be made in respect of dead children."

They also state: "The court has the discretion to hear media representations on whether it should make or lift a section 39 order.

Courts have discretion to hear reporters in person, as well as their legal representatives. Indeed, many courts have formally reconsidered orders or purported restrictions after media representations by letter or discussion with the clerk to the justices."

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