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Lifetime anonymity order overturned following successful press challenge

Courts justice

A Lifetime Anonymity Order granted by a judge on the basis a woman who deliberately caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to a car had “medical issues” has been overturned following a successful press challenge.

Despite strict procedures set down by the Judicial Studies Board around dealing with reporting restriction applications and the Carlin Judgement in 2013 by the former Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, none were complied with by either the self-representing defendant or the judge.

Now identified, Martina Mary McCloskey (also known as Collins), admitted deliberately causing £4,393 damage to a car using a pair of scissors in February 2023.

She was handed a suspended prison sentence in July after which the judge arbitrarily ordered: “There should be no press reporting of the case given this lady’s medical issues.”

This brought the total number of Lifetime Anonymity Orders in the entire United Kingdom to 10, the last three being imposed in Northern Ireland and all on the basis of alleged mental health issues.

Read more: Judge refuses anonymity for woman accused of child cruelty over seven year period

Lifetime Anonymity Orders are strictly reserved for cases in which there is a confirmed third-party risk to life and generally applied to persons who have served a prison sentence then released with a new identity.

Examples include a ban on publishing the new identities of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson who murdered toddler Jamie Bulger in 1993 and Maxine Carr who lied for her partner Ian Huntley after he murdered schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in 2002.

Until 2022 there were seven such orders across the United Kingdom, but Northern Ireland for a time brought the total to 10 over the course of just 14 months, all grounded on mental health issues.

The first two were for convicted paedophiles who threatened to self-harm if identified in press despite one being placed under a Probation Order in 2022 and the other jailed in 2023 – both of which press argued acted as safeguarding factors.

In the latest case McCloskey provided a GP note to the court, which despite falling far short of the evidence required, was accepted by the judge.

Read more: Second NI paedophile given lifetime anonymity over self-harm threat

Press were provided with nothing and none of the procedures around such applications were followed.

When this was brought to the attention of the Office of the Lady Chief Justice (OLCJ) who refused to take any role in respect of the errors made, which have since been conceded, instead stating: “If a party’s view departs from the principle of open justice without sufficient justification (or to question the procedural fairness by which the order was made) the appropriate course is for that party to make an application to the court inviting it to review the order.”

When informed it was McCloskey, not press, who sought to depart from open justice and the judge had permitted this, and OLCJ re-sent the guidance.

They failed to explain why the procedural breaches were permitted, nor did they address what is to prevent any defendant repeating this, given statistics have shown at least 70% of defendants attending court suffer from some form of mental health issue.

Press submitted a challenge and the judge re-listed the case.

Following a number of adjournments she accepted procedures were not adhered to and stressing her commitment to open justice, revoked the order entirely.

This brings the overall Lifetime Anonymity Orders in the UK back to nine, with both remaining Northern Ireland matters still under press challenge.

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