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Express reporting restrictions application rejected

Express reporting restrictions application rejected

Monday 02 December 2019

Express reporting restrictions application rejected


Bailiwick Express’s application to have the reporting restrictions lifted in a case being heard in the Magistrate’s Court has been rejected.

Currently it can't be safely reported in Jersey, because of the risk of identifying a child who is linked to case, something which is banned by the Children's Law.

Express argues that reporting the case is in the public interest, and the risk of causing any harm through such reporting is low. 

The company's lawyer, Advocate Olaf Blakeley, brought the application to the Court’s attention at a hearing last week, before issuing it again in writing in order to give the court at least a week's notice of the request.

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Pictured: The decision not to lift the reporting restrictions was taken in the Magistrate's Court.

Now, Assistant Magistrate Peter Harris – the judge presiding over this case – has decided not to use his powers under the Children’s Law to remove the barrier to identification, and allow for the local press to report on the case freely.

He explained that by sending an email asking for a decision on the application the night before the Court hearing, Advocate Blakeley "has shown a degree of a lack of respect for all involved - his professional colleagues, the Crown, the defendants."

However, the Legal Adviser appearing for the prosecution pointed out that Advocate Blakeley had, in fact, issued his written application to the Court a week previously.

His application argued that as the case was being held in the form of ‘public’ hearings which any islander could freely attend, the local media should be able to report the identity of the defendants, the charges they are facing; and the facts of the case as heard during the trial.

In it, Advocate Blakeley states: “Importantly, it is submitted, the interests of justice will most certainly not be served by protecting the defendants by keeping secret their identities… It is in the interests of justice the public should be made aware of the identities of the defendants, the charges against them, the facts giving rise to those charges and the outcome of the trial. It is not in the interests of justice the Law be used as a backdoor protection to the defendants.    

“It is in the interests of justice the public is made aware how serious the courts view the alleged offending and, in the event of any conviction, how the court deals with defendants found guilty…”

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Pictured: The application was brought on behalf of Express by Advocate Olaf Blakeley.

Handing down his decision on Express’s application, the Assistant Magistrate considered that it “pays no regard for the welfare of the children” linked to the case which is “one of the key points of the Children’s Law.” 

He also noted that the application was not supported by any of the defendants in this case, or counsel either from the prosecution or defence.

Having said this, Assistant Magistrate Harris told the Court that he will “decline to make any order” to lift the reporting restrictions.

Express Editor, James Filleul commented: "While clearly disappointed, we respect the Court's decision in this matter. The reason we made the application was that we genuinely felt that this is an important case which islanders really should know about; it is being heard in 'open' court, and no restriction has been handed down by the Court to directly prevent identification of the defendants. However, the local media is still prevented from safely reporting it by a particular set of circumstances, of which the relevant article of the Children's Law is part, and so we felt it was right to ask for the Court's assistance. Without that, we cannot proceed with publication."

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