Children who commit murder should be entitled to lifetime anonymity, a barrister has told the High Court. Arguing the case for two juvenile defendants, Joel Bennathan QC told the court that young criminals need “the space and protection to grow, to learn, and to put their past behind them.”
Currently, the right to anonymity expires upon the criminal’s 18th birthday.
Mr Bennathan added that the rise of the internet and the production of online reports by newspapers and broadcasters means that judges need to wield stronger powers.
A judge currently has the power to impose an order under section 39 of the Children and Young Persons’ Act forbidding the press from naming an under-aged offender. The judge will then usually lift the order when the offender reaches the age of 18.
Court News UK reports Mr Bennathan is a member of Doughty Street Chambers, which the Guardian described as “the powerhouse of the liberal legal establishment.”
Mr Bennathan said: “The simple wording of the statute provides that a court has the power to make section 39 order in respect of a child or young person.
“It does not provide that such an order will only remain in force until they are no longer under the age of eighteen.
“The obvious purpose of keeping a young person’s name out of the public domain is to allow them to leave their past behind them; that would be accomplished by a section 39 order being made indefinitely or until further order.
“It would not be achieved by it ceasing to function at 18.”
Mr Bennathan added: “The central purpose of protecting a child and young person from being identified in the press must be to allow them the space and protection to grow, to learn, and to put their past behind them.”
Judgement will be given on a later date.