John Paul Cashen speaks to the Herald Sun about the Children’s Court bid to gag victims of youth thugs

Author: Shannon Deery

VICTIMS of young thugs would be effectively gagged from speaking out about the crimes in a new push to protect juvenile offenders.

Children’s Court president Amanda Chambers this week threatened that journalists could face large fines and even up to two years’ jail for publishing articles that identify victims who want to tell their stories. Her warning letter says it is critical not to “embarrass or stigmatise” young accused.

Longstanding legislation restricts publication of anything that could identify a child who is subject to court proceedings, or a witness in the proceedings.

But Judge Chambers is now warning that once a child is arrested, media coverage that identifies any victims or witnesses could be in breach of the law.

…Leading media lawyer John-Paul Cashen, of Macpherson Kelley which represents the Herald Sun, said the warning was not supported by the legislation.

“In our view, there is simply no basis for an interpretation … that prevents publication of the identity of eyewitnesses and victims, except in rare cases where that person is also a witness in the proceeding, or when publication is likely to identify a child or other party to the proceeding,” he said.

Mr Cashen said the Act did not refer to “a potential witness in the proceeding” nor to “an eyewitness to an event which is relevant to a proceeding.

“Had parliament intended the provision to have that effect it would have expressed the provision in such terms.”

He said the public should be informed as much as possible about youth crime. “Telling the stories of victims and eyewitnesses is a powerful way to educate the public and bring about social change,” he said.

“Media outlets are always careful not to identify children. However, we must make sure that restrictions do not go beyond what parliament intended,” Mr Cashen said. ….

To read the article in full, head to the Herald Sun website