Thursday, October 25, 2012

British media law baffles me

Several weeks ago I mentioned my interest in the Jeremy Forrest case, the British schoolteacher who ran off to France with a 15-year-old student he was tutoring. The student was returned home to her family in England, and a few days later, Forrest was extradited to the UK.

The story disappeared.

I searched the papers online to find out what happened next. Surely The Sun would run with a salacious headline, or at the very least, the Daily Mail's gossip pages would rehash the saga of Forrest's abandoned wife. But there was nothing. It was as if the duo had never run off.

Then yesterday, I spotted a short piece in the Guardian that reported a British court had lifted a ban from the defendant being named in the press, thanks to a challenge from  ten media organizations, including the Guardian and the BBC. Still, there's been very little on the case, except that there's no longer a ban. Great, but what's next? A court date? Probation? Prison time?

Here in the U.S. it would be highly unusual -- if not unheard of -- for a media organization to be banned from naming a defendant in a court case, especially in a case that has already drawn media attention. The exception I can think of would be if the defendant were under age 18, and even then, it would be extremely rare.

So I ask my British readers: why the ban? I also notice that British newspapers often turn off commenting features on online stories involving a crime "for legal restrictions." Any insight?


  1. Shoot - I have a British law degree; I should know this. I'll get back to you.

  2. Thank you, Toni. From now on, you are my British law expert. :) It is a tricky case, thus my interest in it. It can't be the notoriety because think about people like Rose West and Ian Huntley who were on trial ... I don't think the media was banned from naming them in stories. If he's not charged with anything, perhaps he's not in jail then? I'm not even sure what the law is here in the U.S. for holding a suspect before charging him/her, although I'm sure there's a time limit. Hmmm.


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