16.4.04

Scots papers threatened with prosecution after naming teenage murder suspect

The Edinburgh Evening News and Aberdeen Press and Journal could face prosecution or comtempt charges after naming the 15 year old boy accused of the murder of Jodi Jones. Jodi, who was 14 at the time, went missing near the town of Dalkeith on the outskirts of Edinburgh in June last year.

As HoldTheFrontPage reports, the papers claim they acted within the law in naming the 15 year old. The Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act prevents suspects under the age of 16 being named but as the papers are arguing, this applies to "proceedings in a court" and not to the period before.

section 47 of the Act HERE

The 1981 Contempt of Court Act will also not apply as this relates to 'active' proceedings and at the time the papers published the proceedings were not yet active (i.e. someone had been arrested). Both papers headlined the story in which they named the boy on Wednesday before he'd been arrested and charged. They deliberately did not publish details online as this may have allowed the naming to run into 'active' time.

Whether common law contempt may apply is questionable as the procurator fiscal would have to show that the papers intended to cause prejudice in relation to imminent proceedings. Given the high level of public outrage and the interest in the case it could be argued that the public had the right to know and in naming the boy the paper was not putting the trial at risk.

It will be interesting to see if proceedings are issued against the papers. If so, then the crown office and procurator fiscal have clearly formed the view that section 47 of the Criminal Procedure Act does cover the pre-trial part of proceedings.

More HERE and HERE

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