October 7, 2015
15 year old convicted of terror offence cannot be named
Category: Reporting the Courts
Court continues reporting restriction
On 2 October 2015, Mr Justice Saunders refused to lift a reporting restriction prohibiting the reporting of the identity of a defendant, who had pleaded guilty in relation to plotting a terror attack in Australia on Anzac day. At the same hearing the Judge sentenced the 15 year old to life with a minimum term of 5 years, the defendant having pleaded guilty to inciting an act of terrorism in Australia, a plot which was foiled when the police in both countries intervened.
In considering an application to lift the reporting restriction, made by 5RB’s Felicity McMahon on behalf of a group of media organisations, Mr Justice Saunders recognised the importance of the principle of open justice and the public interest in the case, which he said raised issues which should be talked about. However, the welfare of the defendant was also a key matter which he had a duty to consider. There was evidence before the court that the defendant had made progress since being in detention, and that identifying him would have a negative impact on attempt to de-radicalise and rehabilitate him, matters which the judge considered central to his welfare.
In cases of this nature one aspect that is normally considered is the deterrent effect of naming the young person in question. In this case however the Judge was concerned that some individuals and organisations may seek to glorify the defendant for what he has done, and that any such glorification would be more effective if his identity were made public.
As such, in the circumstances of the case, the Judge decided that the balancing exercise between the rights and interests in play favoured the continuing of the reporting restriction. It will automatically expire when the defendant turns 18.
The reporting restriction order was made under section 45 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, which replaced section 39 Children and Young Persons Act 1933 in relation to under 18s tried in adult courts in April this year.
5RB’s Felicity McMahon acted for News Group Newspapers Ltd, Times Newspapers Ltd, Associated Newspapers Ltd, the Press Association, Independent Television News and British Sky Broadcasting Ltd.