Murderer named on media application

Crown Court lifts order which had anonymised 17 year old defendant

On Friday 22 April 2016 James Fairweather was convicted of murder by a jury in the Crown Court at Guildford. Fairweather had previously admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in relation to two killings, but pleaded not guilty to murder on the basis that voices and hallucinations compelled him to carry out the attacks. This defence to the more serious charge was rejected by the jury.

Fairweather carried out the attacks when he was 15 years old. By the time of his trial, he was 17, and the Defence sought and obtained an order prohibiting his identification under s. 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (“YJCEA”). However, by the time of his conviction, he was only a little over three months away from his 18th birthday, at which point the restriction under s. 45 YJCEA would have automatically expired.

Three media organisations, Associated Newspapers Ltd, News Group Newspapers Ltd, and ITV Anglia, instructing Gervase de Wilde of 5RB, sought and obtained a direction dispensing with the restriction. They submitted that it was in the public interest for Fairweather to be named, and that any benefit to his welfare arising from the prohibition on identifying him was necessarily highly limited since it was shortly to expire in any event.

This is the latest challenge by media organisations to an order made under s. 45 YJCEA, which, in the criminal context, replaced Section 39 Children and Young Persons Act 1933 in April 2015.