‘This is not about naming or shaming... this is about open justice’

Basingstoke Gazette’s Ryan Evans who successfully won a court battle to identify a teenage knifeman explains why it’s so important for communities to have the ‘right to know’…

Open justice is an important principle. Should a person commit a crime, not only is it important that they receive the appropriate punishment, but the public should learn about it. It is the only way we as the general public can have confidence in our legal system, to see that crime is being dealt with.

Ryan Evans

Having said that, I don’t think it’s something I’d ever considered before I became a journalist. Growing up in rural Cornwall, I’d thankfully never been the victim of a crime, nor had I really known anyone that had to deal with the court process. I imagine that most people probably would have the same outlook.

So as I read the horrific details that came out in the trial of Connor Ezard, a 16-year-old who stabbed a man in the face in an unprovoked attack, I knew there was a need to tell the story to our readers, and reassure them that he has been dealt with.

The judge made her feelings known about the incident as she sentenced Ezard. “It was a short incident but it didn’t take you long to do what you wanted to do. Certainly, you weren’t remorseful afterwards, you washed the knife and hid it under the sofa.

“He had to undergo emergency surgery. It was a vicious and cowardly attack by you. His mental and physical health has deteriorated. He has become reluctant to leave his home.”

Connor Ezard

The judge said Ezard “represent[s] a significant risk of committing further offences and causing serious harm”.

After this, I made my application to Judge Evans, highlighting the community right to know the details of a such a serious case.

I argued the community would enjoy greater protection from the defendant in future if the Gazette could identify him, and also cited a previous case in which a judge described the prospect of being named and shamed as “a powerful deterrent.”

My application was opposed by Ezard’s barrister, who claimed naming him was “disproportionate and unnecessary”. She said identifying Ezard “only heightens the naming and shaming that has already taken place”.

But this is not about naming or shaming. This is about open justice, about telling the public what has happened. It is so important that communities get the closure after a serious crime like this, and that can only be piecemeal unless a person’s name is included.

That is why it is so important that we have people looking out for open justice and challenging court orders. Without a strong local newspaper such as the Gazette, this shocking case would remain in the shadows.

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