Glasgow & West Scotland

Rapist Stephen Fagan fails in anonymity bid over Airdrie return

A Scottish man who was jailed for twice raping a woman in England has lost a legal bid to keep his name out of media reports on his attempt to return home.

Stephen Fagan, 47, injected the woman with heroin and raped her in front of her eight-year-old son at her home in South Shields, near Newcastle, in 2006.

He was jailed for 14 years but released on licence in September 2012.

A judge rejected Fagan's claims that his family would be at risk if his planned return to Airdrie was reported.

Judicial review

Earlier this year, he launched publicly-funded legal action against the Ministry of Justice in an attempt to win the right to live in Scotland under the supervision of Scottish probation officers.

Fagan, who wants to re-settle back in his home town of Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, said members of his family might be in danger if his return was reported.

Fagan's lawyers applied for an order preventing his name from being publicised in reports of that judicial review claim.

High Court judge Mr Justice Irwin analysed the anonymity issue at a hearing in London in May and gave his judgment in a written ruling in June.

He said Hugh Southey QC, for Fagan, had suggested that anonymity was necessary "to prevent the risk of violence" and had argued that members of Fagan's family might become a "direct target of hostility".

Mr Southey had accepted that Fagan's dispute with the Ministry of Justice over where he should be allowed to re-settle raised a "legitimate public interest".

But he had said the case could be "properly addressed" if anonymised and argued that there was "no general public interest" in knowing where ex-offenders were settled.

But Victoria Jolliffe, who represented a large number of media organisations opposed to anonymity, said it was "inevitable" that the family life of serious offenders would be affected by crime and its consequences.

She said the placement of sex offenders whilst on licence was a "legitimate subject of debate" and the public had a "very substantial interest" in understanding any court decision.

Mr Justice Irwin said there was "undoubtedly" a "legitimate public interest" in Fagan's dispute with the Ministry of Justice and in the "general issue of resettlement of serious offenders".

'Accurate speculation'

He questioned whether debate could be "properly conducted" if Fagan's name was not reported.

"It is very likely that any such debate, even reported in general and anonymised terms, would give rise to immediate and accurate speculation in Airdrie that the case concerned was this case," said the judge.

"Thus in practice anonymisation would be ineffective in preventing the undesirable consequences of publicity."

He added: "It is an extremely difficult balance to take."

The Court of Appeal in London has now refused to overturn Mr Justice Irwin's decision - following an application by Fagan's lawyers.

Appeal judges said they would give reasons for their ruling at a later date.

It has also emerged that a judge has yet to hear argument on Fagan's dispute with the Ministry of Justice.

The Court of Appeal heard that the claim might not proceed in any event because, since launching the legal action, Fagan had been recalled to prison.

They indicated that he had been returned to jail earlier this summer but did not say why.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites