South Wales Guardian Opinion
6:00am Wednesday 23rd January 2013 in News
LLANELLI magistrates’ decision to ban publication of the address of an alleged child rapist is unusual in the extreme. It also sets a dangerous precedent.
It is accepted in law that Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act should only be used when publication might “frustrate or render impracticable the administration of justice”.
It is not there to protect “the private welfare of those caught up in that administration”.
Even though the accused believes he might be in danger if his address is printed, that is not enough reason to ban newspapers from doing their job.
Like it or not – and defendants usually don’t – the British legal system is a two-legged beast. Not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done. The courts carry out the justice, newspapers report that justice has been done. Both are essential parts of the system.
To forbid the printing of a defendant’s address is the first step in breaking that all-important link.
Every defendant claims their safety is at risk if they are identified in their local papers.
But such claims can never be enough to kick one of those legs out from under the system.
Section 11 orders are not there for the “comfort and feelings of defendants”.
In our view, the magistrates were wrong, but we have no doubt the judge at Swansea Crown Court will rectify the error.