Judges revoke 'mistaken' gagging order about coverage of long-serving UK prisoner's parole application
An anonymity order preventing the naming of one of Britain's most notorious child killers as David McGreavy has been lifted by the high court.
McGreavy, now 62, has spent the last 40 years in prison after being jailed in 1973 for the murders of three infant children in Worcester.
He killed four-year-old Paul Ralph, and his sisters Dawn, aged two, and nine-month-old Samantha, while he was babysitting when he was a lodger at the house. He left their bodies impaled on the iron railings of a neighbour's fence. The only explanation he gave for the murders was that Samantha would not stop crying.
The anonymity order was lifted after a concerted press challenge by the Daily Mail, the Mirror and the Sun, after being alerted by the Press Association and which had the backing of the justice secretary, Chris Grayling.
The news blackout on naming McGreavy was first imposed in 2009 when a parole board decision not to recommend his transfer to an open prison was challenged in the high court.
At the time, the then justice secretary supported the ban which was imposed because of fears that publicity about the "monster of Worcester" would put him in danger from other inmates and disrupt the parole process.
But Lord Justice Pitchford and Mr Justice Simon have ruled that the gagging order should now be discharged. They said in their ruling that while renewed hostility from other inmates is likely to follow fresh media reporting there is no real and immediate threat to his life. McGreavy is currently segregated in a vulnerable prisoners' unit where he is closely monitored and has spent much of his sentence because of the danger to his safety on the ordinary prison wings.
McGreavy was given multiple life sentences with a minimum term of 20 ears. He has been repeatedly attacked and threatened with violence in prison. In 1991, at Channings Wood prison in Devon his bed was soaked in urine and his cell and property smeared with excrement after only four days on a general wing.
In 1996, he was assaulted by inmates following a Daily Mirror article about him. In December 2005, efforts to resettle him in a bail hostel supported by the then justice secretary were brought to an immediate halt after a frontpage article in the Sun.
McGreavy was first considered suitable for an open prison 23 years ago. He has fully co-operated with the rehabilitation process and spent much of his time as an artist. The high court ruling states that he has shown a fine ability as an artist.
The challenge to the gagging order by the media, supported by the justice secretary, argued it was legally flawed and wrongly prevented the public from knowing the full facts of the case. The Press Association had previously warned the high court that allowing anonymity in this case would set a precedent for other high-profile prisoners to seek similar orders.
Guy Vassall-Adams, counsel for the press, told the court that full facts of the case were exceptionally horrific even by the standards of murders yet the order restricted the media from stating that there were three sadistic murders. "That doesn't even give you the half of it," said Vassall-Adams.
He told the judges that arguments about whether the media should be allowed to endanger his life or imperil his chances of rehabilitation did not apply. He said such considerations only applied in cases such as that of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were given new identities after convicted of murdering James Bulger.
In this case not only had McGreavy's identity been public until 2009 but had been given massive publicity in the past.
The justice secretary welcomed the ruling: "This is a clear victory for open justice. The public has every right to know when serious offenders are taking legal action on matters which relate to their imprisonment."
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