Judge makes ban U-turn on drug treatment reporting

Hutton: had previously lifted ban

A judge at Gloucester Crown Court expelled an agency reporter and reimposed a ban on the press he lifted last December.

Judge Gabriel Hutton has changed his mind and decreed there will be no reporting on reviews of Drug Treatment and Testing Orders.

John Hawkins of the Gloucestershire News Agency was working for the The Citizen, Gloucester, when he was ordered to leave the court. The original ban was lifted after The Citizen’s lawyers received an assurance from the court that the newspaper would be allowed to report DTTOs, which place criminals with drug problems on a monitoring scheme.

Matt Holmes, the paper’s head of content, immediately went to the court armed with correspondence in which the court manager agreed to overturn the ban. Holmes asked if the judge would give him an interview.

“Judge Hutton is famous for never giving press interviews, but he let me into his chambers and explained his reasons for reinstating the ban,” said Holmes.

Before the court for a review last week was Jason Hook, who was given a DTTO after he admitted carrying out three burglaries and escaping from custody. He had also asked Judge Hutton to take into account five other burglaries and two charges of theft when he was sentenced last year.

In January, when Hook was before the court for an earlier review, The Citizen published the results.

Speaking exclusively to The Citizen in his private quarters, Judge Hutton said that since lifting the initial ban he had been “persuaded that it was not a good idea”. “So I have forbidden it,” he added.

He said the press should be allowed to report when a DTTO was being imposed, but he was defiant in his stance, said Holmes, “that reviews of such orders should be held in private”.

“Reviews of DTTOs are pretty sensitive. I get reports on the progress of the order and the attendance of the defendants who appear without legal representation. I think it is unnecessary for these to be publicised,” said the judge. He also thought it “undesirable” for comments he makes to defendants to be made public. “It is much better in this rather sensitive procedure for the judge, probation and the defendant to be discussing this in private.

“I am entitled to exclude the press when I think it is in the public interest and in the interest of the defendant. I consider that I have discretion to make these exceptions.”

The Citizen is to challenge the ban.

By Jean Morgan

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