Killer's 'foolish' grandsons rapped by judge after taking picture of murderer in the dock

The teens can be named today after a judge lifted an anonymity order following representations by reporters

By Kate Cronin
Monday, 21st December 2020, 4:42 pm
Updated Monday, 21st December 2020, 4:46 pm
Jamie Welch (facing away from the camera) and Luke Welch outside court today
Jamie Welch (facing away from the camera) and Luke Welch outside court today

The teenage grandsons of murderer Stephen Welch took a picture of him in the dock at Northampton Crown Court and sent them via WhatsApp.

The pair broke strict contempt laws designed to protect the integrity of the court before the first piece of evidence had even been heard in the eleven-week Marion Price murder trial.

Her Honour Judge Adrienne Lucking QC had banned the identity of the hapless pair from being reported until sentencing had taken place, but today (Monday, December 21) after representations from Northants Telegraph reporters, she lifted the order so they can be named for the first time.

Stephen Welch was sentenced to 27 years in jail today

Luke Welch, 18, and his brother Jamie, 16, both of Helmdon Road, Northampton, attended what had due to be the opening day of the trial in September. The pair were seen fiddling with their phones while watching the proceedings on a video link from an overspill court, despite being told not to use them by an usher. The use of mobile phones by members of the public is strictly prohibited in court.

After an investigation by police, the two were brought before the court on contempt charges on October 5. It emerged one of them had taken a picture of their grandfather in the dock and sent it via WhatsApp. The other had taken a picture of the court with no person in it.

Appearing in tracksuits and unrepresented by legal counsel, both admitted contempt of court and apologised to Her Honour Judge Lucking.

They admitted they had no income or savings so Judge Lucking reprimanded them but decided not to fine them. She also imposed an order under Section 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 ordering the names of the pair not to be published.

In a published judgement, Judge Lucking said: "Both youths were reprimanded by the court in clear terms but no other penalty was imposed.

"The court took account of the age of the youths. It was clearly a piece of spontaneous foolish behaviour that had not, in fact, resulted in this instance in any harm, not had it impeded the trial process.

"The youths were permitted to continue attending the trial provided that they showed the usher they had switched off their phones and did not switch them on again in court."

Following that hearing, in a written submission, the Northants Telegraph asked Judge Lucking to lift the S45 anonymity order in the public interest. In the period between the boys' court appearance and today's sentencing hearing, Luke Welch had turned 18 so the order no longer applied to him in any case.

Our letter to the judge said: "Both defendants have been sentenced for contempt and were fortunate in this case that their actions did not impede the trial.

"In taking pictures and sending one to another person via WhatsApp, the picture could have easily ended up on social media and out of their control.

"This could have led to a course of action which could have caused the trial to collapse - causing considerable distress to Marion Price's family, wasting the court's time and costing the taxpayer thousands of pounds.

"Any Section 45 order is discretionary and can be lifted if it is justified and proportionate to do so. We submit that the defendants are not young children and knew exactly what they were doing.

"There are signs across the courtroom reminding court users not to use their phones or take photographs, and the Welchs deliberately disobeyed this.

"Further, we submit that naming these defendants would act as a deterrent to others who may consider taking photographs in a court an appropriate action to take.

"There is a legitimate public interest in knowing the outcome of proceedings in court and justice must be seen to be done.

"Many have never stepped foot in a courtroom and may not be aware that such action can result in a criminal record and potentially imprisonment.

"Others may believe it is a risk worth taking as media reports of people being prosecuted for such an offence are so rare.

"Being identified may prevent others from committing the same offence as the Welch brothers."

They again appeared before the court today to make representations on the potential lifting of the order. Both answered that they had 'nothing' to add when asked for their representations.

Lifting the order and allowing the pair to be identified, the judge made it clear to both defendants that, had they been older, they may have faced a jail term.