Agency boss beats lawyer no-names bid - Press Gazette

Agency boss beats lawyer no-names bid

The head of a freelance news agency has defeated a bid to stop the media naming a barrister who was the alleged victim of an assault.

The Crown Prosecution Service submitted a six-page argument as it applied for an order under section 46 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 to give barrister Paul Bryning anonymity.

Section 46 allows a court to prohibit publication of anything which would identify a witness in criminal proceedings if the court is satisfied that the order is likely to improve the quality of evidence the witness gives, or the level of co-operation he or she gives to any party in connection with the party’s preparation of its case.

The case arose over an incident in which Bryning alleged that he was assaulted Gary Sunbeam, one of his clients, in a conference room at Manchester Combined Court Centre.

The case was moved to Blackpool because Bryning was well known in Manchester.

At the start of the hearing, on March 23, the prosecution handed District Judge Peter Ward the six-page application for anonymity, arguing that the quality of Bryning’s evidence would improve if the order was made and that Mr Bryning’s career could be damaged by unfounded derogatory allegations which it was thought Sunbeam might make during the course of the trial.

But journalist David Graham, head of Lancashire-based freelance agency Watsons, objected to the application.

He argued that no other complainants at court that day would be given the privilege of anonymity, and pointed out that other people, such as police officers, were often the subject of incorrect or malicious allegations during trials but were not given anonymity.

There was also a danger that the public would view an anonymity order as being one rule for the lawyers and another for the general public, Mr Graham said.

District Judge Ward declined to make the order sought by the CPS.

A CPS spokeswoman said later: “We felt that Mr Bryning should have anonymity because that would improve the quality of his evidence.”

Sunbeam, who described himself as a cookery book author, was convicted of common assault and fined £350 and ordered to pay prosecution costs, but was acquitted of a public order offence.