Birmingham Sex Explotation Victim Should Be Given Life-Long Anonymity

A vulnerable teenage girl who was sexually exploited by a group of men in Birmingham should have life-long anonymity, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Keehan today made an order barring journalists from revealing the girl's identity while she was alive.

He had analysed the issue at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London on Monday.

The judge had been told that the girl, who is now 17, was in the care of Birmingham City Council.

Lawyers representing council social services bosses had asked the judge to impose reporting restrictions which would give the girl ``anonymity for the rest of her life''.

Times Newspapers and the Press Association had opposed the council's application.

They said they did not intend to reveal the girl's identity - and suggested that other media organisations would take the same stance. They said a reporting ban was therefore unnecessary.

Mr Justice Keehan today announced he had decided to impose a life-long reporting restriction order.

He said his reasons for the decision would be made public in a written ruling soon.

The judge concluded late last year that 10 men from the Birmingham area had sexually exploited the girl.

He had analysed evidence at hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in Birmingham and London.

Lawyers representing Birmingham council had asked him to make civil court injunctions against the men - who had not been convicted of any criminal offence in relation to the girl.

The judge imposed injunctions barring the men from contacting the teenager and from approaching girls they did not know.

Mr Justice Keehan said the council's legal move was ``bold and novel'' and said he hoped that other local authorities would take similar steps to target men who sexually exploited vulnerable girls.

He had ruled at that stage that the girl could not be identified while she was under 18 - and he extended that reporting ban today.

The judge said the men could be named in media reports.

Mr Justice Keehan had been told how the girl had not considered herself a victim.

And police had come to the conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to secure criminal convictions against the 10 men.

Birmingham council had then, with police support, applied for civil injunctions available under the inherent jurisdiction of a High Court judge - a process which did not require the girl to give evidence.

Earlier this week Lorna Meyer QC, for Birmingham council, had told the judge that legislation provided life-long anonymity to sex abuse victims involved in criminal proceedings.

She suggested that similar anonymity should be given to victims of child sexual exploitation at the centre of civil court proceedings.

Mike Dodd, the Press Association's legal editor - who also represented Times Newspapers - said judges should be cautious before filling gaps in legislation.

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