Former Croydon Advertiser editor Ian Carter has been cleared of breaking the law by publishing the account of a teenage stabbing victim.
Carter was group editor of East Surrey and Sussex Newspapers when the article appeared in the Croydon Advertiser on 26 September, 2008.
The article included a picture of a 15-year-old who had appeared in court on the 18th of the some month. Reporting restrictions were imposed at that hearing banning identification of the youth under section 49 of the Children and Young Persons Act.
Dismissing the charges against Carter, who is now editorial director of KM Group, district judge Suzanne Byrne said: ‘I think it was misguided in the extreme to publish without first making checks with police as to the status of any investigations, and it is beyond me as to why it was deemed necessary to disclose the family address. But in the circumstances of this particular case I find that this article was not one to which section 49 of the act relates as it is not a report of the proceedings in the Youth Court.
‘It is clear to me that the purpose of section 49 of the act is to prevent the publication of reports of proceedings to which the reporting restrictions relate.
“I find that the hypothetical question posed by Mr Hudson on behalf of the defendant is an apposite one – is there anything in the article that would reveal to the reader that the young person mention is either the defendant of a witness in current criminal proceedings – the answer to that is clearly ‘No’.
“There is no reference to arrest or charge or to proceedings in the Youth Court – the article itself deals specifically with the young person’s experiences and opinions.”
Solicitor Tony Jaffa of Foot Anstey, who defended Carter, said: ‘I was surprised when the CPS announced that Ian Carter would be prosecuted over the article.
“When my team legalled the story prior to publication, we took the view that a story which only reported, to quote the district judge, the victim’s ‘experiences and opinions’, could not possibly contravene section 49.
“I was even more surprised that the CPS pressed on with the prosecution, despite knowing from the outset the nature of the defence. By ordering that Ian Carter’s legal costs be paid from central funds, it seems the district judge took a similar view about this prosecution.
“It was a prosecution which should never have been brought. Why the CPS pressed on with it is beyond me.”