By Jean Morgan
Trainee reporter David Byers, with The Citizen, Gloucester for only 18 months, successfully challenged a section 39 order banning the paper from identifying a 15-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer.
Citizen got court decision overturned
Sucessful challenge: Byers and
Tristan McCarthy’s father, Owen, has been in court five times trying to get the care he believes his son should have from Gloucestershire County Council, the Cotswold Vale Primary Care Trust and the West Gloucestershire PCT.
The Citizen had previously covered Tristan’s story – and named him – but the county council, the local education authority, got the banning order imposed in November.
Last week, working in conjunction with The Citizen’s lawyers, Foot Anstey Sargent, Byers went to the court armed with legal arguments against the order.
He told the court Tristan McCarthy had already been identified by The Citizen and other media; his father wanted the case to be heard in public and wanted his son identified; the order was pointless as it did not prevent the media from reporting on the case – only from naming the boy. Byers was asked to address the judge.
He said later: “Challenging a section 39 order is one of those things you are taught about at journalism college, but I never really expected to find myself in front of a High Court judge and a packed courtroom actually going through with it.”
The education authority and the primary care trust believed naming Tristan was not in his best interest.
Byers said: “I was very surprised and pleased the judge agreed to overturn the order as legal representatives for both the county council and the health trusts had made lengthy representations to the judge arguing why the order should not be overturned. In the end the judge very quickly dismissed their arguments.”
The Citizen’s head of content, Matt Holmes, said: “We are delighted with the victory and proud of David for the professional way he achieved it with the support of our lawyers.
“Tristan’s father put his faith in us to follow the story and report on it accurately and fairly, which we have done, and he backed us all the way.
“It is vital that local newspapers keep challenging orders which are clearly not in the public interest or in the interests of justice generally.”
It was the second time The Citizen has successfully overturned a court order in recent weeks (Press Gazette, 10 January).