Monday, August 12, 2013

Utterly Illogical

Tonight's television news included a piece about a missing teenage girl who has now, fortunately, been found. Some individuals have apparently been arrested on suspicion of child abduction. The report included the girl's name, and a full-face photograph. Now if the suspects come to be charged, and appear in court, the bench chairman will solemnly make a CYPA order forbidding the publication of anything that might serve to identify the young person involved. What on earth is the point of that? Isn't the cat already out of the bag?


  1. This happened a few months ago with Jeremy Forrest taking his pupil to France. It makes the law a ass. a ass, as Mr. Bumble said.

    And to quote Bismark:
    Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made. To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.

  2. Indeed the cat is out of the bag but how could it be otherwise? Publishing a name and photograph is a necessary part of the investigation into finding a missing person. Publishing those details may well have been what led to her being traced for all we know, and that is the first imperative. If I am understanding it correctly a CYPA order is required and the Chair has no choice but to make the order. In this instance the identity is already known but that is not always the case so a CYPA is always required, there being no discretion for the bench to decide whether it should need one or not. I don't see how it could be otherwise.

  3. A few years back, a Monday remand bench allowed a S39 CYPA order to be made in the case of a 17-year old jointly charged with an adult with a Friday night murder, even though both had been named in the Sundays. The bench reasoned that by the time the trial was held, his name may have been forgotten; one of our learned judges said afterwards that the bench was wrong, that once in the public domain it was pointless to make such an order. Months later the 17-year was acquitted through lack of evidence, his identity still protected, so the bench got that one absolutely right.

  4. There is no right or wrong answer in a case like this. The purists out there would say it must be done, the more pragmatic may wonder if there is any use. As the magic age of the internet gets faster and faster it is going to be hard to stop those who want to know finding out. no matter how many court orders are made

  5. Section 1(1) of the Children's Act 1989 requires the court to treat the child's welfare as paramount. Clearly, when a child is a missing person, then prohibiting publication of his/her identity would not only be a ludicrous obstruction of the search, but also a violation of the Act. The lawyers may be able to comment on whether that concept extends to the apprehension of juveniles suspected of violent crime as well (my own view is that it should).

    Net, it is only what happens after the search / apprehension / etc. that is worth discussing. Anonymising after the event may turn out to be at least occasionally useful, as Jaguar states above. To me, at least it seems to do no harm.

    This is just another one for the long list of situations where a perfect legal solution is impossible. The options are mutually exclusive (post-search quasi-anonymity or not), and, like many legal (and human) issues, the least negative option is the obvious choice.

  6. Contempt of Court Act 1981 applicable from time of arrest.

    Court has to make the C and YP Act 1933 s39 order.

  7. It's worth reading this document issued by Lord Judge

  8. That sometimes it is necessary in the interests of justice or of the young person to publish the identity, and that once it is out it is out, is JTB.

    Similarly, a year or so ago there was a case of rape - I will not identify it beyond saying that it got some publicity and of course the Press did not publish the identity of the victim; I use that word because there was a conviction.

    However: she was a member of a prominent family in a certain town in Ireland where the local newspaper lapped it up, name and all. And in those areas of London and other cities where there is a big Irish population you can get an amazing variety of Irish local papers, and yes, there it was, on a shelf in London, her name printed for all to read.

    Also JTB. There is nobody whose job it is to go through newspapers printed and published out of the jurisdiction just in case there is something of the sort, and a good thing too.

  9. Didnt we cover this with the Teacher abduction to France


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