Belfast Telegraph

Solicitor accused of sexual assault not to be identified

By Paul Higgins and Chris Kilpatrick

A court has banned the media from naming a solicitor from Northern Ireland who has been accused of indecent assault.

The 33-year-old, who cannot be identified on foot of the temporary court order, was charged at Downpatrick Magistrates Court with committing sexual assault on November 23 last year, "the circumstances being that the touching was sexual, that she did not consent to the touching and you did not reasonably believe that she so consented".

After defence QC Eugene Grant lodged a Press restriction application, District Judge Broderick granted the order on an interim basis. Concerns had been raised by the defence over the impact that the reporting of the case would have on the defendant.

A journalist in the court challenged the application and the reasons given by the defence for the order.

But as it stands, media are unable to reveal the identity of the solicitor. The judge will consider applications from both the defence and media at a later date.

Ulster Unionist justice spokesman Tom Elliott said it was vital that transparency and openness remain at the heart of the judicial system.

"We must see the legal process take its proper course whatever that process is and justice must be done and be seen to be done," he added.

When asked on what grounds Judge Broderick had imposed the blackout, a spokeswoman for the Lord Chief Justice's Office told the Belfast Telegraph: "The judge granted an interim reporting restriction order under Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 that no details pertaining to the identification of the defendant(s) be published in any publication of any sort or released to the media until hearing of the Reporting Restrictions application on October 7, 2014.

"This is to allow time for the parties and Press to make submissions.

"A reporting restriction is also in place under Section 1 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 that no details pertaining to the identification of the complainant(s) be published in any publication of any sort or released to the media."

Factfile

This newspaper knows the identity of a solicitor from Co Down accused of indecent assault – but cannot name him due to an order imposed by a District Judge.

In the vast majority of cases involving charges of sexual assault the media can name the defendant and record the verdict of the trial. Alleged victims of sexual assaults cannot be named in the media to protect their identity, unless they waive their right to anonymity.

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