THE Advertiser successfully fought to ensure three of the defendants involved in the latest Stovewood trial could be named.
Deputy news editor Adele Forrest (pictured, below) made representations to the court at the opening of the trial that restrictions had been unlawfully placed on four of the defendants — meaning the press could not identify them during the trial.
She said: “Not only were the restrictions involving four of the defendants made while the judge was sitting in chambers (in private), the Press were not given advanced notice of them or invited to challenge them, despite myself and another reporter being sat outside the court room.
“I not only believed the manner in which they had been made was unlawful but I also believed correctly that the grounds on which they had been granted for two of the defendants were invalid.”
A ban on naming four of the defendants would have made reporting on the trial extremely difficult and confusing for readers.
Judge Slater invited Ms Forrest to address the court on July 10, when she pointed out rule 16.2(3) of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2013 states a court should not impose a restriction unless each party and any other person directly affected — including the media — was present or had been given the opportunity to make representations.
The rule also requires that parties applying for a reporting restriction, should, if the court directs, give the media advance notice.
Guidance by the Judicial College also states that courts should invite media representations when first considering making orders and the need for an order must be “convincingly established”.
After considering Ms Forrest’s application, Judge Slater said he had been given “updated information” regarding two of the defendants to whom he had granted anonymity.
He said the information he had been previously provided with was “inaccurate” and lifted the restrictions on identifying two of the men.
The judge went on to say he had made the restrictions in his chambers on July 8 due to the “sensitivities concerning this case” but said he had kept “firmly in mind” the principal of open justice.
Ms Forrest said: “Not being allowed in court to hear defence counsels’ arguments for applying for the restrictions meant we were on the back foot.
“If I had not been present in court for those first two days, the trial would have opened with two restrictions made due to inaccurate information.”
Ms Forrest also successfully applied for a reporting restriction against naming Aftab Hussain to be lifted, arguing the restriction should be amended to allow him to be named while making no mention of a previous trial in which he was convicted.