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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 February 2005, 19:28 GMT
Carr anonymity order is unique

By Jon Silverman
Legal affairs analyst

Like all court orders, the High Court injunction protecting the anonymity of Maxine Carr will apply until it is varied or replaced by a subsequent order.

So it would be more correct to say its effect will be indefinite rather than last a lifetime.

Maxine Carr
Carr's case is unusual because she is not a killer
Given the intense level of interest in Carr, and not only by the media, the order may need to be looked at again sooner rather than later to take account of changing circumstances.

This is the third high-profile case since 2000 in which the High Court has imposed such an injunction.

The previous two involved the killers of James Bulger, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, and Mary Bell, who killed two small boys in 1968.

But the Carr case is unique for three reasons.

Firstly, she is not a killer. Secondly, the media did not oppose the application. And thirdly, the judge emphasised that her psychological as well as her physical safety was at issue.

This may be treated as a benchmark for applications for anonymity in other cases
Regarding the media point, the managing editor of the News of the World, Stuart Kuttner, made it plain that much of the popular press did not believe she should have anonymity but acknowledged that the media's case was not likely to receive a sympathetic hearing from the court.

"By not contesting it, we're simply being realistic," he said.

The psychological point is perhaps more significant. The judge heard evidence from a psychiatrist about Maxine Carr's fragile state of mind and accepted that exposure would place her mental health at serious risk.

This may be treated as a benchmark for applications for anonymity in other cases, though it should be stressed that these will continue to be exceedingly rare.

Impetus for exposure

Carr's QC, Edward Fitzgerald, revealed during the hearing that press breaches of the terms of the interim injunction had been referred to the attorney general.

The outcome of this referral will be watched with interest. In 2001, the Manchester Evening News was fined 30,000 for contempt when it breached the injunction covering Thompson and Venables.

The director of the watchdog MediaWise, Mike Jempson, said that in Carr's case, the impetus for exposure might come from people who approach the press hoping to be paid for information about her.

There is little doubt that such approaches have already been made.

The application for an anonymity order was supported by the Home Office, the probation service, and Humberside Police. Responsibility for protecting Maxine Carr falls on their shoulders.

It is both a costly and challenging task.

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