Press victory in court battle to name killer

Legal bids to lift the gag order allowed Pennell to be named in the Daily Express, left, and the Grimsby Telegraph

Reporting restrictions on a 16-yearold murderer were dropped after challenges from at least two regional newspapers as well as the Press Association.

As a child appearing in an adult court, Alan Pennell was protected by a Section 39 order made at the beginning of his trial at Nottingham Crown Court.

He was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years in prison on Tuesday after being found guilty of murder after stabbing another boy at school.

Grimsby Telegraph district news editor Peter Craig, backed also by the Lincolnshire Echo, addressed the court at the beginning of the trial to argue that the boy should be named.

The request was refused, but the matter was raised again prior to sentencing after PA legal expert Mike Dodd sent a detailed submission to judge Mr Justice Golding.

Dodd said: “We argued that he should be named because one: the seriousness of the offence which is the most serious offence on the books.

“Two: he is 16 and old enough to know what’s going on and what he was doing.

“And three: even if it was going to be argued that naming him would have some deleterious effect on rehabilitation, he was likely to be detained for a serious length of time.”

Dodd said Pennell should also be named as a deterrent to others and because of the large number of people involved with the boy’s school who knew his identity anyway.

The judge dismissed arguments from the defence that Pennell’s identity should be protected in the same way as the murderers of James Bulger and the child killer Mary Bell.

He said: “The facts are different. The defendant is much older, his release is a long way ahead.”

The judge admitted there was significant public interest in the case and said: “There is nothing in the reports I have that suggests significant harm will be done to him if he is named.”

The lifting of the ban came just in time for the Grimsby Telegraph, which had prepared a 10-page special based on the assumption that Pennell could be named. The news came five minutes before its 11am deadline.

Editor Michelle Laylor said: “We had various pictures of him, had found cuttings from when his mother had died in a car accident and interviews with people who knew him. All of this would have identified him. We took a punt and it paid off.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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