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Judgement reserved on Herald ​editor

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Barrister Matthew Paul: Pictured with Herald editor Thomas Sinclair​

THE EDITOR of The Ceredigion Herald appeared in court today (Apr 20) charged with breaching a statutory reporting restriction.

Thomas Hutton Sinclair, the 37-year-old editor of the Herald titles, was on trial for allegedly identifying the complainant in a sexual offence case.

Appearing in Llanelli Magistrates’ Court, Mr Sinclair maintained his not guilty plea.

Prosecuting, Emma Myles told the court that the allegation related to an article published in the Ceredigion Herald in 2016.

“The court will be aware that under the provision of the 1992 sexual offences act the complainant has a right to anonymity,” Ms Myles said.

“It is the Crown’s submission that this falls foul of the wording of this act.”

All written statements were accepted by the defence, and the case hinged on whether the article in question breached the Act in question or not.

The court heard from the record of a police interview with Herald deputy editor Jon Coles, in which he stated that he had received the court report in question from a Herald court reporter, and changed the tense from present to past, as well as fixing some errors.

Describing M​r​ Sinclair as ‘a hands-on editor’, he added that Mr Sinclair had the final word over what was published. Mr Coles stated that in this instance he had not been instructed to check whether the content complied with the law, though on some occasions he carried out this task when asked.

In an informal interview last year, Mr Sinclair told police that he had held the role of editor since 2013, although his training was in law not journalism.

He added that as a total of around 1,200 articles were published over the four titles each week, it was ‘impossible’ to edit all of them, and some of this work was referred to the deputy editor. In this case he had not seen the article until it was brought to his attention by the police.

When asked his opinion on whether the article breached reporting restrictions, Mr Sinclair replied that it ‘sailed close to the wind’ but would not allow members of the public in general to identify the complainant.

He pointed out that the defendant in the original case had ‘a common surname’ and that The Herald had not reproduced his address.

When asked if he would have changed anything had he edited the article himself, Mr Sinclair suggested that he may have taken out details of the defendant’s occupation.

However, he maintained that ‘any member of the general public would not be able to piece together who the complainant is’.

He also noted that the reporter who wrote the article had just been coming to the end of a probationary period at the time, and that his staff had already been booked onto a media law course.

Summing up, Ms Myles said that it was the Crown’s submission that by publishing this article, Mr Sinclair had breached legislation specifically aimed at that type of case.

“I respectfully submit that the legislation must be stringently applied,” she added, stating that details of the relationship between the complainant and the defendant in the original case which were published breached the legislation.

Representing Mr Sinclair, Matthew Paul set out the information revealed in the article – the name, age and former occupation of the convicted party, along with the date of conviction and a familial relationship which had existed at some point between him and the complainant. However, he noted that the date of the offence and the defendant’s address had not been included, and no indication had been given as to the age of the complainant.

His argument was that in this case there was nothing in the article which would allow any member of the public not closely connected with the convicted party or the complainant to make any identification.

Mr Paul stressed that for a conviction, it had to be demonstrated that there was a real, rather than a hypothetical risk of identification.

Referring to the case of the Attorney General vs Greater Manchester Newspaper Group he noted that it had been found that the risk of identification was not based on relative statistical probability but ‘a real risk’.

“The Crown has to establish more than a hypothetical, but a material risk,” he added.

Mr Paul noted that the Crown appeared to be of the position that placing the complainant in a ‘pool of potential victims’ was the same as identifying them.

“Identifying, in my submission, must mean only one thing; it must lead to one person.”

Mr Paul added that the familial relationship mentioned could apply to more than one person, and that there was nothing in the report which suggested whether it was an historical or recent offence.

He suggested that the most the article could lead to, if read by someone familiar with the convicted party and/ or complainant, would be to place them in a ‘small pool’ of potential people.

He also noted that this small risk of identification was made even smaller by the Ceredigion Herald’s circulation figures at this time, which amounted to a relatively small percentage of the county buying a copy, and the fact that the story was not placed online.

“Right from the start you are dealing with a low-level risk, made even smaller by the fact that the date of the offence was not mentioned,” he added.

“Overall, you are looking at whether this report would lead members of the public to identify the complainant – it is my submission that it would not.”

District Judge David Parsons reserved judgement until May 12 at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court.

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Business offer Welsh Government help in ‘non-essential’ shopping row

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THIS morning (Tuesday, October 27), the Wales Retail Consortium, CBI Wales and Association of Convenience stores presented the Welsh Government joint recommendation to resolve the confusion over non-essential items.

The three industry bodies’ statement expresses the hope that the Welsh Government, ‘will agree to these recommendations and the people of Wales can refocus all their energies on respecting the Fire Break’.

The recommendations come in response to confused and confusing messaging from the Welsh Government, which allowed its public health message to be drowned out over the weekend by rows over whether toasters, Lee Childs novels, and size 16 jeans were essential items for customers. The confusion was not helped by a mistaken tweet by supermarket giant Tesco which claimed women’s period products were not essential items when they are and always have been.

The WRC, CBI Wales and ACS believe their recommendations will fulfil retail’s role in tackling the spread of the virus while allowing for discretion to be used on an individual basis – as recommended by Health Minister Vaughan Gething in a tense press conference yesterday, http://pembrokeshire-herald.com/61929/welsh-health-minister-defends-retail-restrictions/.

The business bodies recommend:

  • To limit the spread of the virus and allow for individual discretion, retailers will prominently display Welsh Government approved signage in front of known non-essential items and in communal areas. The signage will make clear the government’s regulation and the need to abide by it.
  • This message will be reinforced through in-store announcements and social media messaging. Advising customers to put off non-essential purchases
  • We recommend the individual customer is trusted to make their own decision as to whether a product is non-essential or not, taking into account the notices displayed throughout the store and their immediate needs
  • If the customer goes ahead with the purchase of the item the final liability ought to rest with the customer
  • Retailers will remove special in-store promotional displays of non-essential items in order to minimise browsing and avoid triggering a non-essential purchase.
  • These recommendations would mean non-essential items are not removed from shelves – or cordoned off in stores – but large notices are placed in front of the products and in communal spaces informing customers of the Welsh Government’s regulations and the Welsh public are trusted to make the right decision.

They also say they ‘look forward to engaging with Welsh Government again this morning and we hope consensus can be reached’.

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Llanelli Christmas Carnival goes online

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Preparations are underway to host the first ever virtual Llanelli Christmas Carnival. 

The carnival will go digital for the first time in its 42-year history due to the Covid-19 pandemic and in line with current Welsh Government guidance and increasing concerns about the spread of coronavirus linked to large gatherings. 

Whilst there won’t be the usual street parade, people will be able to get into the festive spirit from the comfort of their own home. 

The online celebration will be hosted as an event on Discover Carmarthenshire’s Facebook page on Friday, November 13. 

Over the years, thousands of people have been involved in the Llanelli Christmas Carnival – either dressing up to enter a float in the parade, volunteering, or simply enjoying the atmosphere with generations of their families. 

They can still get involved this year by sharing photos and video to help people celebrate good memories and help others reminisce about carnivals gone by. 

There will be a broadcast of music from talented local performers who would usually sing from the main stage, and people will still be able to countdown to the switch-on of the town’s Christmas lights. 

The largest Christmas carnival in Wales, Llanelli’s festive celebrations are a joint effort by Carmarthenshire County Council, Llanelli Town Council, Llanelli Rural Council and Llanelli Round Table. 

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “It’s very unfortunate that we can’t hold Llanelli Christmas Carnival this year, but we’re determined to keep the spirit of the carnival alive. Let’s come together and celebrate one of the biggest events in Wales from the comfort of our homes – celebrate with generations of memories and look forward to a bigger and better carnival next year.” 

Sign up to attend Llanelli’s first virtual Christmas carnival – visit facebook.com/discovercarmarthenshire 

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Free Community Crime Prevention Kits to be distributed in Llanelli area

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OVER the coming weeks, residents from both the Ty Isha and Glanymor areas in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, will receive free crime prevention kits that will aim to deter offenders and make both communities safer.

The prevention kits have been purchased through funding that was secured from the Home Office’s Safer Street Fund by Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn.

The funding of £195,673 that was secured by Mr Llywelyn will go towards measures proven to cut crime, and will include employing two Community Wardens; purchase of SelectaDNA kits, Community crime prevention activity support, Environmental improvements and Community Crime Prevention kits.

SelectaDNA kits and Bike register kits are two of the Community Prevention kits that will be distributed to residents within the local communities over coming weeks.

The SelectaDNA kits are property marking kits that include a unique formula of DNA, UV tracer and microdots, which people can use to mark their valuable household items, so that if stolen, police are able to trace them. 

Similarly, the bike register kits include stickers, frame markings and microdots to uniquely identify a bike.  Users can add descriptions and photos to ensure that in the event of a theft, their bicycle can be easily identified and returned by Police through the BikeRegister Scheme.

Dafydd Llywelyn, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys said, “I am delighted that both these crime prevention kits have been purchased through the Safer Streets funding that I secured earlier this year.  Hopefully, as they are distributed over the coming weeks, we will see that they will have a positive impact within the area.  Criminals know that DNA is the police’s most powerful weapon in convicting criminals therefore the DNA fear-factor is highly understood and acts as a huge deterrent.

“I have invested significantly in the area over recent years with community grants I made available in addition to the new CCTV system that is in place across the town. These new crime prevention kits that have been purchased through the new additional Safer Streets funding will further build upon my work over recent years and I hope the residents will feel a positive difference in their communities.

Both Ty Isha and Glanymor areas are considered to be two of the most deprived areas in Carmarthenshire according to the Welsh Government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation. The funding secured will focus on tackling all acquisitive crime such as burglary, vehicle theft and robbery within the identified areas.

PCC Llywelyn added, “Ensuring the security and safety of residents is a priority of mine – everyone deserves to live safely, and free from harm. Acquisitive offences are the crimes that the public are most likely to encounter, and they are estimated to cost society billions of pounds every year. There is strong evidence that these crimes can be prevented by tactics that either remove opportunities to commit crime or act as a deterrent by increasing the chances of an offender being caught. I now look forward to continue working closely with all partners that have supported us with our bid, to tackle these crimes in both areas and to ensure that they become safer environments for community residents.”

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