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Anonymity for children in high profile cases

The anonymity of children has been protected in two recent high profile cases, highlighting the increasing recognition by courts of the impact media  has on children’s welfare.

Details

On the 18th July 2016 a judge at Newcastle Crown Court sentenced a 13 year old and a 14 year old to three years and three months detention for the kidnap of a toddler at a Primark store. The sentencing Judge refused an application by the media to lift reporting restrictions. He said: “[a]nonymity is never an easy matter to resolve where there is an offence committed of public importance… Open justice is uppermost in my mind.” However, after taking the age of the two defendants into account, he decided the ban must remain in place.

Press coverage of this case is here.

On the 20th July 2016 a 15 year old was handed a non-custodial sentence for ‘hacking’ offences. He admitted three offences relating to cyber attacks on SeaWorld in Florida and Devon and Cornwall Police. He denied two charges of sending bomb hoaxes in 2015 but was found guilty in July. He was given a two year Youth Rehabilitation Order at Plymouth Youth Court. In this case although no formal application by the media was made to lift reporting restrictions, the media had indicated their desire to have reporting restrictions lifted. Reporting restrictions remained in place throughout proceedings.

Press coverage of this case is here.

Commentary

It is significant that the court in these cases recognised the impact that lifting reporting restrictions would have on children’s welfare.

Youth Offending Teams and Local Authorities should be alert to cases in which the media may wish to lift reporting restrictions and be prepared to oppose any application. This should include gathering as much information as possible of the impact this would have on children’s welfare. See our overview of the issues relating to anonymity here.