Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill [Lords] — Conditions for making an order under section 44(5) — 8 Jul 1999
(a) publish a notice of his intention to make such an order and the reasons for his decision; and
(b) consult such persons as appear to him to be representative of news gathering and reporting organisations and any other persons he considers appropriate.
(2) The Secretary of State shall not make any order under section 44(5) until six months after the date of publication of the notice of intention under subsection (1)'.-- [Mr. Greenway.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
As I did in Committee, I remind the House that I have an interest as a consultant to ITV Network Ltd., but none of the matters that we are to debate this afternoon are of concern to the broadcast media. Indeed, as I said in Committee, it is the printed media rather than the broadcast media that have residual concerns about the provisions of clause 44.
Clause 44, which was previously clause 43, seeks to clarify the law on press reporting restrictions on the identification of children and young persons under the age of 18, who may have been involved in criminal offences. The proposals as originally drafted, before the Bill began its passage through the other place, gave rise to huge anxiety and concern that they were too far-reaching and would seriously inhibit media, particularly local and regional newspapers, from reporting criminal incidents of a more or less general nature.
Several well-known crimes were cited as events that the press would have been restricted in reporting. The appalling murder of James Bulger was one. Another was the horrific tragedy at Dunblane. The Bill does not apply to Scotland, but had such an incident occurred in England, it would have been subject to the provisions. Perhaps the most accurate example was the attack on a school playground in Wolverhampton, in which a number of children were injured and considerable bravery was displayed by a teacher, Lisa Potts.
Arising from those concerns, changes were introduced in the other place, including some important defences to publication. One such defence would be that permission had been granted by the parents or guardians. Another would be that the criminal investigation in respect of the incident had not begun, although we still are not clear how wide or narrow that window is likely to be in practice. A third would be the inadvertent reporting of the identity of a young person. The final such case would be one in which the reporting could be considered to be in the public interest, as defined by the open reporting of crime.
Those changes were welcome and we supported them, but the position was still not satisfactory. Many right hon. and hon. Members have been contacted by their local newspapers with expressions of concern about the implications of the restrictions for the reporting of relatively routine incidents. In particular, it was stressed that the local press often play an important and beneficial
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role--for example, when an incident such as a kidnapping has occurred--in helping the police to trace the whereabouts of the people concerned.
It being four hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration of the Bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker, pursuant to Order [this day], put the Question already proposed from the Chair.
Question put , That the clause be read a Second time:--
The House divided: Ayes 122, Noes 288.
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