How local journalists overturned a Section 39 order

What happens, as a journalist, when you think a court order should be challenged? It’s something I started to look into for a piece on courts transparency earlier this year.

Ed Walker, online communities editor at Media Wales (publisher of Wales Online) has helpfully shared his recent experience, when he and a colleague stood up in court to challenge a section 39 reporting restriction, which prevented the paper reporting the name of a child in a murder case (for case background see his blog).

“The prosecution and the police were stunned at how much information was already in the public domain,” reports Ed, noting that some details about events were originally published when proceedings were not active.

The judge entered and said he would find it hard to justify his Section 39 order, and after a few comments about the state of the press and how we had no regard for the wellbeing of children, he agreed to lift it.

Here’s Ed’s advice for journalists:

  • If you feel you can challenge an order, challenge it
  • Make sure you can demonstrate the public interest and whether facts are already available in the public domain e.g. the name has been published elsewhere
  • Every case is different, don’t use a copy/paste template
  • Don’t be afraid, if you are asked to speak they will listen. It’s easy to be intimidated by the courtroom.
  • Don’t get angry, try to engage the prosecution/defence in conversation and judge their mood and attitude.

Ed’s full post is at this link.

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