Mercury challenges 'crazy' name ban on ABSO youths

Mercury: front-page action

The Weston & Somerset Mercury made a front-page challenge to local magistrates after it was again banned from naming one of two brothers who are the subject of an anti-social behaviour order, even though the boys have appeared on television and spoken to the Sunday Mirror.

The weekly was spurred into making its stand when it discovered the two, Robert and Ben White, were due to appear on ITV’s Tonight with Trevor McDonald last Friday.

Editor Judi Kisiel felt so strongly about the issue, she told Press Gazette: "We used the whole of the front page to ask if this was justice. These kids are being protected by the magistrates down here yet they go ahead on Trevor McDonald for a full half hour with their solicitors. It’s crazy. They actually said on the programme that they like to be put away because every punishment is a holiday camp."

In March, magistrates lifted a ban on identifying the brothers allowing the Mercury’s readers to recognise the pair who have committed a string of offences in the town.

"But the crimes continue," said the Mercury. "On 28 June, a Mercury reporter attended a youth court case involving one of the brothers. Once again the magistrates banned the media from identifying him."

They did so, said the paper, because the incident took place before an extension of the ASBO; the boy deserved "a fresh start"; and his home address should not be revealed.

"We believe this was wrong," the Mercury stated. "The community has a right to know that at least one of the White brothers is still appearing in front of north Somerset’s magistrates."

A Granada cameraman and journalist were present at a youth court two days before when a boy was due to appear. His brother waited outside while the hearing took place.

When asked if he would talk to the Mercury, he said: "I do not talk for free. I’ll talk to you for £250, not a penny less."

A spokesman for the Tonight show refused to disclose to the newspaper whether the pair had been paid to allow cameras to follow them for eight weeks.

The youngsters have already appeared on BBC1’s Kilroy.

There are three White brothers – elder brother Philip last week received an 18-month community rehabilitation order after attacking a police officer – and they have been hitting the headlines since February 2000.

Robert made legal history at 12 as the youngest child in Britain to receive an ASBO. He and elder brother Ben were barred from Weston town centre after allegedly committing 116 offences. The ASBO was extended in March to cover large parts of the town.


By Jean Morgan

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