Should journalists be allowed to name paedophiles?

The Court of Appeal is set to rule on whether newspapers will be allowed to name a paedophile whose name had already been read out in open court.

Five judges, rather than the usual three will sit to decide if a selection of publications including the Times and The Mirror can name the 45 year old man from South London after a Crown Court judge ruled in June that the man couldn’t be named. This followed his conviction in April for downloading and making highly indecent pornographic images of children. He got away with a community service order.

So why did the Crown Court ban his being named?

The reason is that he has two young daughters who would be subjected to embarrassment and possibly harassment were his name to be made public. Under section 11 of the 1981 Contempt of Court Act the court has the power to make an order giving anonymity in sensitive cases.

So why the appeal?
Section 159 of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act provides the right to appeal where it is argued that a judge should not be allowed to make a Section 11 (Contempt of Court Act) order where the person has already been named and no previous restriction has been imposed.

Convicted paedophiles should be named and shamed and the media should have the right to do so. The question for the Court of Appeal to decide is whether, given there are young children who could be adversely affected, it is correct to do so in this case. The case splits into two here as procedurally one can argue that naming should be allowed given it wasn’t previously banned but beyond procedure the court will have to weight the risk of his daughters being put at risk against the right of society to know who has been engaged in and convicted of paedophile offences. Controversially one could argue that harsh though it may be, his daughters also have a right to know what their father has been up to. So if the risk to them derives from the knowledge and embarrassment then that might not be as persuasive an argument for the court as one that demonstrates it is likely they will be put at risk of physical harm if their father is identified.

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