Weekly newspaper the Rotherham Advertiser has won a court battle to lift restrictions on naming members of a local grooming gang.
Deputy news editor Adele Forrest told Sheffield Crown Court that unlawful reporting restrictions had been placed on naming four defendants at a trial.
In a report on the challenge, the paper said the ban “would have made reporting on the trial extremely difficult and confusing for readers”.
Forrest said the restrictions had been made “while the judge was sitting in chambers (in private)”.
“The press were not given advanced notice of them or invited to challenge them, despite myself and another reporter being sat outside the court room,” she said.
“I not only believed the manner in which they had been made was unlawful but I also believed correctly that the grounds on which they had been granted for two of the defendants were invalid.”
She told the court in July, at the start of the trial, that it could not put a restriction on reporting without both parties being able to make representations under rule 16.2(3) of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2013.
The journalist said the reasons for restrictions needed to be “convincingly established” according to Judicial College guidance.
After Forrest made her statement in court, the judge lifted restrictions on naming two of the defendants outright and a third provided a previous trial was not mentioned in reports, the Advertiser reported.
The paper is by independent publisher Regional Media
Advertiser editor Andrew Mosley said: “In spite of the pressures on staffing that all newspapers and media organisations face, we have always stuck to the policy of having reporters in court, at inquests and at council meetings as otherwise decisions are made behind closed doors that we don’t know about and, as such, the public will not find out about.
“The fact Adele managed to persuade the court that the way in which the restrictions were made, in private, was unlawful and the grounds on which they were made were invalid shows how vital it is that reporters are fully aware of media law and are able to fight the wrongful imposition of reporting restrictions.”
He added: “Without media companies being staffed by skilled, fully qualified reporters, democracy dies.”
Six men were found guilty at Sheffield Crown Court last week on 20 charges relating to the abuse and exploitation of seven girls in Rotherham. Five have now been jailed.
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