ID teen who raped pensioner, court told

ID teen who raped pensioner, court told

The identity of a youth jailed for raping a pensioner should be revealed because his crime was so atrocious, the Court of Appeal has heard.

Senior judges were told the need for open justice and public protection requires him to be named.

The 17-year-old is challenging a decision to lift reporting restrictions which normally protect juvenile offenders.

He is serving an eight-year sentence for a sex attack on a 76-year-old woman in March 2011.

The youth was aged 15 when he carried out the rape at the victim's home in Newtownards, Co Down.

His elderly victim died later that year.

In July last year, a Crown Court judge removed the anonymity order, citing the public interest in knowing the rapist's identity and the need to deter any other young offenders.

But the teenager's legal team secured an injunction which has blocked publication of his details until the appeal is decided.

Barry Macdonald QC, for the youth, contended on Wednesday that there was a wider interest in shielding his client's identity.

He told the court: "This case is not just about protecting a child, this is about protecting society by way of ensuring he becomes properly reintegrated into society."

In a case involving the competing rights to privacy, freedom of expression and a fair trial, Mr Macdonald also rejected claims that there was no jurisdictional right to appeal against the reporting restrictions being lifted.

The three judges hearing the challenge, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, Lord Justice Higgins and Lord Justice Coghlin, allowed lawyers for the BBC to intervene.

They heard the broadcaster's barrister, Brett Lockhart QC, claim it could threaten the media's ability to report on cases fully and contemporaneously.

Not only do the public have the right to be protected, but it's an embodiment of the principle of open justice that the media are entitled to report infamous cases that cause great public concern, and this is clearly one of them.

Brett Lockhart QC

He argued that the seriousness of the teenager's crimes should feature in the balance between public interest and the welfare of the child.

"The more heinous the crime the greater the weight of the Article 10 (right to freedom of expression) considerations," Mr Lockhart said.

A psychiatric assessment of the youth concluded the likelihood of him offending again in future was "more than a mere possibility", the court heard.

Mr Lockhart questioned what case would merit such a lifting of reporting restrictions - if not this one.

"The seriousness is at the absolute top end of what one would regard as an appalling and atrocious crime," he submitted.

"There is nothing remotely or manifestly unjust about the removal of these restrictions."

However, Mr Macdonald challenged his claims about the merits of full disclosure.

"What interests the public is not the same as the public interest," he responded. "There is an important distinction to be drawn. Just because the public might like to know the identity of a defendant that's not the public interest."

Although lawyers for the Northern Ireland Children's Commissioner were also present, the court declined to study a document dealing with the general impact of publicity on young people.

Reserving their decision on the appeal, Sir Declan said: "We will give judgment in this case as soon as we can."


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