An award-winning journalist has succeeded in lifting a gagging order, which prevented the naming of a 20-year-old sexual offender.
Four women had had their breasts groped by Wajahat Zubair, from Walworth, London, who targeted women walking to or from Tooting Bec underground station. One of his victims, an Australian woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was attacked five times.
Local paper, the Wandsworth Guardian, had not been able to report the case to date as the judge had placed a section 4 order banning the disclosure of the identity of the offender.
Section 4 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 bans reporting which would seriously prejudice court proceedings.
But, following an appeal from Wandsworth Guardian reporter Eleanor Harding, the judge at the hearing in Kingston Crown Court, Judge Matthews, agreed the order was imposed incorrectly in this instance and lifted the restriction on Monday.
It was found that there was no risk of prejudice in Zubair’s case and as such the gagging order had been wrongly placed, the court concluded.
The clerks’ office said the order had been introduced ‘because it is a sex case’, the Guardian reported.
The incidents occurred between March and May last year. Zubair, who had come to the UK to join his mother less than two years ago, was arrested in June last year.
On May 11 this year, after a lengthy trial, he pleaded guilty to eight sexual assaults. He will be sentenced at Kingston Crown Court on August 10.
Speaking about the case in a statement, reporter Harding said:
“The [section 4] order does not exist to protect sex offenders. We are glad it has now been overturned, as cases such as these are clearly in the public interest.
“This is a small victory over the growing culture of over-cautiousness at some courts, which contradicts the principle of open justice.”
Harding is winner of the Mind Journalist of the Year 2009, an award which rewards excellence in mental health reporting.