Here’s a remarkable example of good use of Freedom of Information (FOI) law. Tanya Fowles, a reporter covering courts in Northern Ireland, has successfully applied to lift a reporting restriction order, originally made in the magistrates’ court, which prevented her naming a person convicted of causing a child to engage in sexual activity.
The court appears to have imposed the original order because of a perceived risk to the defendant’s safety, based on evidence given by a police officer, who is reported to have told the court that
It’s a small, rural community. The family would be well-known. I think he would be easily identified. I know of incidents recently where paedophile hunters have gone to houses and attacked individuals. I am aware that is prevalent within the area, or certainly was last year. They have turned up at houses and one was arrested for assault. After that there was a bit of a lull, but I believe they are still active in the area.
However, Fowles then made an FOI request to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which revealed that, far from such incidents being prevalent, police had only attended seven incidents in the entire County Armagh area during 2019/20, resulting in a single report of assault but zero prosecutions. This evidence was accepted in the county court (to which the case had been transferred) and the reporting restriction order was lifted.
The views in this post (and indeed most posts on this blog) are my personal ones, and do not represent the views of any organisation I am involved with.