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Changes to anonymity for children in criminal cases

Sections 78-80 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 in force 13 April 2015

Reporting restrictions for under 18 year olds involved in criminal proceedings (other than in the youth court) will now be governed by section 45 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. Section 39 orders will only apply in civil and family cases. Section 45A Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 enables court to grant lifelong anonymity to child witnesses and victims. Reporting restrictions have been expanded to cover all online content in addition to print and broadcast media.

Details

There will now be a new reporting restrictions order for under 18 year olds involved in criminal proceedings (other than the youth court) under section 45 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. Section 39 Children and Young Persons Act 19331 will cease to apply in criminal cases and will now only apply in civil and family proceedings. Section 39 will still apply to Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, Criminal Behaviour Orders and civil injunctions.

The changes expand the scope of reporting restrictions to all online content. Previously section 39 applied only to print and broadcast media.2 Section 49 Children and Young Persons Act 1933 will continue to apply in the youth court (amended to include the expanded definition of online content).

Courts will also have the ability to grant lifetime reporting restrictions for victims and witnesses under the age of 18 (this is already possible for adults).3

Reporting restrictions made under section 45 will expire when the child turns 18 (or, where the child turns 18 during proceedings, at the end of proceedings).

These changes will apply to cases commenced on or after 13 April 2015, although courts will have a discretion to transfer existing reporting restrictions orders to the new legislation. New guidance is available here.

Commentary

These changes create a distinction between the anonymity protection for defendants as compared to victims and witnesses. Defendants will not be able to apply for lifelong reporting restrictions.

The expiry of reporting restrictions at the age of 18 (under section 39 Children and Young Persons Act 1933) is the subject of ongoing litigation (R (on the application of JC & RT) v Central Criminal Court, Court of Appeal [2014] EWCA Civ 1777 see our legal update here).

  1. As amended by section 79 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015  (back)
  2. Section 80 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015  (back)
  3. Section 45a Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999  (back)