Judge bans further reporting on story of 13-year-old father
Thursday 19 February 2009
A High Court judge yesterday banned any further reporting about a 13-year-old boy who allegedly fathered a baby with a 15-year-old.
Mrs Justice Baron said Alfie Patten must be allowed to return to a normal life after a week of media intrusion and speculation about the paternity of baby Maisie. She granted an application to restrict all further reporting in the case of Alfie, Maisie and his supposed girlfriend, Chantelle Steadman, 15.
The story broke on the front page of The Sun last Friday with a baby-faced Alfie pictured beside the newborn girl, under the headline “Dad at 13”. The boy is expected to take a DNA test next week to determine whether or not he is the baby’s father, but the result of this test cannot be reported.
Following a hearing in private, a statement was read out to reporters explaining the judge’s reasons for making the order. It said that one of the reasons was “because of the birth of Maisie to a mother of only 15 and a putative father who was 13 at the time of the child’s birth and 12 at the time of the alleged conception”. And “because of allegations by at least two others that they may be the putative father of Maisie.” The statement added: “As a result of press intrusion, of which the court has received information, the private and family life of the mother and her baby has been disrupted to such an extent that the judge was concerned about the mother and baby being unable to live a normal family life.”
The judge ruled that the rights of the children involved under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – to a private and family life – took precedence over the Article 10 rights of the press to freedom of expression. But Max Clifford, who is acting as Alfie’s agent, told The Independent yesterday: “The most important thing is obviously the welfare of the children involved. The problem is it’s too late … Controlling the media is one thing but these people are now household names. The boy involved is supposed to be anonymous as of today, but he must be the most famous anonymous 13-year-old in the world.”
Since the story emerged, a feeding frenzy has erupted around the Patten family home in Hailsham, East Sussex.
Charles Hendry, the local Tory MP, wrote to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to voice his concern over media intrusion into the lives of the alleged teenage parents. On Monday night, Sir Christopher Meyer, the chairman of the PCC, announced an inquiry into whether payments by The Sun and The People broke the PCC code in relation to the treatment of minors.
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