The Society of Editors says it criticises plans for automatic lifetime anonymity for anyone aged under 18 involved in criminal proceedings in Scotland as “irreconcilable with the principle of open justice”.
The provisions in the Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill would not only grant child victims and witnesses lifetime anonymity but would also grant automatic lifelong anonymity to any minor convicted of a crime, added the SoE. The bill proposes that it would be an “offence to publish information that is likely to lead to the identification of a person suspected of committing an offence at a time when they were aged under 18” with restrictions applying regardless of whether the suspected offence took place before or after the new laws come into place. The right of appeal would, however, remain.
Expressing concern over the plans, Dawn Alford, executive director of the Society of Editors said: “The proposal for an automatic entitlement to lifetime anonymity for any minor convicted of a crime in Scotland is irreconcilable with the principle of open justice.
“While the Society recognises that there will be occasions in which extended reporting restrictions are necessary and proportionate in criminal proceedings involving children, the default position should always be one of openness and transparency and restrictions must be judged on a case-by-cases basis rather than by implementing any blanket ban.”
“As has been seen in the recent case involving those responsible for the murder of Brianna Ghey in Culcheth, there are occasions in which there is a significant public interest in restrictions being lifted to allow full and informed debate on cases involving children and any blanket restrictions would prevent proper reporting around such serious crimes.”
The Scottish bill has passed its first stage at Holyrood and is being assessed by the parliament’s education, children and young persons’ committee.
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