Law reform will allow press to name ASBO youths

More naming and shaming on way

New legislation on anti-social behaviour announced in the Queen’s Speech is expected to close loopholes which have stopped newspapers from naming young offenders.

The Manchester Evening News has claimed much of the credit for bringing about the expected change in the law – after editor Paul Horrocks put the case for change to one of his local MPs, the Home Office minister Hazel Blears.

New legislation is expected to scrap automatic anonymity for under-18s who appear in youth court after breaching anti-social behaviour orders. The Government is also expected to make it easier for newspapers to report on cases where children have ASBOs imposed after appearing in youth court.

Currently, youth court reporting restrictions are only lifted in the latter part of the hearing where the ASBO is imposed. This means, unless the details of the crime are repeated, papers are left with a choice of naming the child but not detailing their crimes, or doing the opposite.

Papers were often put in the position of naming and picturing a child who was banned from a certain area between certain times – but unable to say why the ban had been imposed.

MEN assistant editor Robert Ridley said: “This decision helps the whole industry. It will mean that young troublemakers who are named and shamed in papers when they are served with an ASBO will now be named again when they breach the ASBO and are brought back before the youth court.

“Even if a court considers imposing a Section 39 order to protect the child’s anonymity, the Home Office has said they should not consider doing that unless they have good reason.

“One of the arguments against naming and shaming was that youngsters would wear their ASBO like a badge of honour. We are pleased that the Home Office has recognised that the deterrent factor of naming and shaming outweighs that argument.”

Ridley said he believed the MEN had been the “driving force” in getting the law changed and said the paper had lobbied Blears hard – which included a meeting at the MEN offices.

Well over 100 ASBOs have been imposed in Manchester and the MEN has committed itself to publicising them.

According to Ridley the orders have been broadly successful, with 83 per cent of youths keeping to them.

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