Court sits to help paper beat reporting ban

Magistrates were persuaded to hold a special session to enable weekly paper the Lynn News to name a suspected child molester.

The Norfolk weekly used the terms of a ground-breaking protocol arrangement agreed between journalists and court staff to get the ban lifted just hours before it went to press.

The protocol was introduced this month and provides a set of “rules of engagement” agreed between Archant-owned newspapers in Norfolk and the county’s courts.

Reporter Ami Wells was covering the case of a 44-year-old man charged with sex offences when a Section 39 order covering his alleged victim was extended to include the defendant.

Wells pointed out that Section 39 of the Contempt of Court Act did not cover adults and should not be used.

But the clerk said the court could not look into lifting the ban until the following day, when the News would already be in newsagents.

News editor Donna Semmens said: “I phoned one of the joint directors of legal services at the magistrates’ court who got on the phone to King’s Lynn and arranged for the magistrates to be back in court by around 4pm to get the order lifted.

“They were called away from what they were doing just to amend this order, which was really helpful.”

Editor Malcolm Powell said: “The protocol sets out how court clerks should behave – they shouldn’t try to start court cases early as they sometimes do. It means we get advance notice of attempts to put orders on cases and it has provided good points of contact with senior court executives.”

The Norfolk Courts Protocol is based on the 2001 Reporting Restrictions in Magistrates Courts booklet agreed between the Newspaper Society, the Society of Editors and the Judicial Studies Board.

It covers the Archant-owned Eastern Daily Press, Evening News and Lynn News.

By Dominic Ponsford

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