Under 18s reporting restriction changes

Provisions of Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 come into force 13 April

Among a series of provisions of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 which will come into force on April 13 2015 are provisions amending the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (CYPA 1933) and the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (YJCE 1999) which re-shape the way existing reporting restrictions apply to proceedings.

The Ministry of Justice a Circular on reporting restrictions applying to under 18s, as well as a general Circular on all the provisions of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 which will be coming into force. Links to both Circulars (dated 23 March 2015) can be found here.

In particular, section 39 CYPA 1933, which has been the standard reporting restriction for criminal proceedings involving under 18s (other than those in the Youth Courts, where section 49 of the Act applies) will no longer apply to criminal proceedings. Its role will be taken over by section 45 YJCE 1999, which is being brought into force. Section 39 CYPA 1933 is not defunct however, it will be amended to apply to non-criminal proceedings and expanded to cover any communication to the public at large (including, for example, online publication and social media) rather than just newspapers and broadcasters.

New section 45A YJCE 1999 will make provision for lifetime reporting restrictions for victims and witnesses aged under 18 involved in criminal proceedings or proceedings before a service court. Schedule 15 of the 2015 inserts new schedules into both older Acts to address the positions of providers of information society services (as defined under the E-Commerce Directive, including broadband providers, hosts and platforms).

These amendments will change the current position where the protection given to victims and witness who are under-18 ends when the individual reaches 18, providing instead for lifelong anonymity. This brings it into line with that which is already in place for adults, where the court has the discretion to provide for lifelong reporting restrictions where appropriate. As to defendants, the reporting restrictions available in both civil and criminal courts will now apply to all forms of communication to the public at large, thus closing an apparent loophole for online publication. Reporting restrictions for defendants will still end when the individual reaches the age of 18.

The Circular provides detailed information on the changes, what is covered, when a reporting restriction may be granted, and when it may be varied or lifted. The Circular also covers transitional arrangements. These will likely be of use to all those involved in the making or lifting of reporting restrictions.