Reporting restrictions lifted in Northern Ireland

Claire Savage Journalist Claire Savage was instrumental in bringing about a change in the law

The BBC was allowed to publish the name of a 17-year-old convicted of a serious crime after reporting restrictions were lifted in Northern Ireland.

It follows a Court of Appeal decision that ruled the defendant's right to privacy was 'outweighed by the principle of open justice'.

The BBC was instrumental in the landmark decision, having argued in court that there was 'strong public interest' in publishing the defendant's name.

In 2012, Ryan McGreechan, then 17 years old, pleaded guilty to raping a 76-year-old pensioner who died several months after the attack.

Despite the fact that a Crown Court judge ruled that McGreechan could be named in the press after his conviction, his legal team secured an injunction protecting his identity.

BBC reporter Claire Savage and lawyers Philip Wheeler and Roger Watts challenged the injunction on the grounds that it 'could threaten the media's ability to report on cases fully'.

The BBC's lawyers added that the public had a right to know, given the serious nature of the crime and the fact that the teenager had been deemed 'a serious risk' to others.

The three judges hearing the challenge agreed. Their ruling has led to an amendment to the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Appeal Court judges in Northern Ireland are now able to 'judicially review' Crown Court cases that have ruled on reporting restrictions.

Kathleen Carragher, head of news in Northern Ireland, says: 'This is a very welcome decision which clarifies the law in NI with regard to reporting restrictions, and safeguards the principle of open justice.

'I would like to pay tribute to the persistence and hard work of [BBC] journalist Claire Savage and lawyers Philip Wheeler and Roger Watts in arguing this case. They are to be congratulated on the outcome.'

Speaking about the outcome of the case, Savage says: 'This might be a victory in terms of open justice when it comes to naming dangerous criminals, but I think it is important to pay tribute to the victim's family. They have remained dignified throughout and have welcomed the fact McGreechan's identity is now known.'

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