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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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Police appeal following assault in Llys Glan Y Mor

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POLICE in Llanelli are investigating an assault which occurred in the vicinity of St Davids Close and Llys Glan Y Mor, Llanelli sometime between 9.00pm on Saturday 10th April and 1.30am on Sunday 11th April 2021.

A 45-year-old male was taken to hospital with facial injuries.

Officers have carried out all possible lines of enquiry, and are now appealing for help from the public.
They would like to identify the people in the CCTV image, who may have information that could help the investigation.
Anyone who knows who the people are, or if you believe you are pictured, contact Dyfed-Powys Police either online at: bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference DPP/0006/11/04/2021/01/C.

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Police trace burglar who left trail of oil leading to his home

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A MAN was charged with burglary after leaving a trail of oil from a stolen generator leading police from a victim’s home to his own.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers were able to quickly trace Dominic William Oliver after he went on an overnight burglary spree in Burry Port in March.

The force received reports of two garage burglaries and a theft from a car overnight on Monday, March 8, with a generator, fishing rods, and two bags containing passports among the stolen items.

The combined value of the items taken was estimated to be around £800.

Sergeant Gemma Davies said: “An officer attended the victims’ homes, and was made aware of a trail of oil, which was believed to have come from the stolen generator.

“She followed it along several streets – one of which was where Oliver had stolen two bags from a car – and discovered that it ended outside a property on Dandorlan Road.

“Oliver agreed to a voluntary search being carried out, and as officers entered the property they immediately noticed a rucksack with a distinctive pattern that had been described by one of the victims.”

The search was completed, with further items suspected to have been stolen recovered from the address, and the 31-year-old was arrested on suspicion of burglary within six hours of the incidents being reported.

While being conveyed to police custody, Oliver made a significant comment linking him to the theft of the generator.

He was charged with two counts of burglary and one theft, and appeared at Swansea Crown Court for sentencing on Friday, April 30.

He was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for 18 months, must complete a rehabilitation requirement, and must remain at his home address between 8pm and 6am for three months.

Sgt Davies said: “This was an excellent response, which resulted in the swift arrest and charge of Oliver, and the recovery and return of stolen property to the victims the same day the offences were reported to us.

“This has no doubt had a positive impact on the residents of Burry Port, who have commented positively on how the matter was investigated.

“Community engagement, patrols and a crime prevention leaflet drop was carried out following the investigation to offer reassurance and advice.”

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Further coronavirus restriction relaxations brought forward

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FURTHER changes to the coronavirus restrictions have been announced by the First Minister Mark Drakeford today.

The Welsh Government has confirmed further relaxations will be brought forward from 17 May to 3 May – including the resumption of indoor supervised activities for children, indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults, such as exercise classes, and the re-opening of community centres.

This means Wales will have completed the move to Alert Level 3 by Monday 3 May.

From Saturday 24 April, the rule of 6 will allow for up to six people from six households to meet outdoors, not including children under 11 years of age or carers from those households.

The Welsh Government has also confirmed the relaxations that will take place on Monday 26 April. Outdoor attractions, including outdoor swimming pools, funfairs and theme parks, will be allowed to reopen, while outdoor hospitality can also resume, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants.

Organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people will be able to take place and weddings receptions can begin again outdoors for up to 30 people.

Wales has the lowest coronavirus rates of the UK nations.  The successful vaccine programme continues with a higher proportion of people vaccinated in Wales than other nations of the UK for both first and second doses.

Changes from Monday 3 May:

  • Gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities being able to reopen;
  • People will also again be able to form extended households with one other household.

Relaxations planned for 17 May will be brought forward to the 3 May, including:

  • The resumption of indoor supervised activities for children;
  • Indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults (such as exercise classes and swimming lessons);
  • And the re-opening of community centres.

The First Minister said:

“The sacrifices we have made continue to show results. By us all working together and sticking to the rules, combined with our vaccination programme, mean we continue to make progress. Rates of the virus continue to fall and the public health situation is improving. 

“Due to these efforts we are able confirm more easing of the restrictions from 26 April and for early May we are again able to bring forward some of our plans. However, this progress is dependent on all of us continuing to work together to keep Wales safe.

“At the last three-week review, I set out a forward-look of how the restrictions could continue to be lifted in the weeks ahead, if the public health situation remains stable.

“It will be for the incoming Welsh Government to confirm these arrangements at the next three-week review, which will be held on May 13 – a week after the election. It is my assessment that the hospitality sector – bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes – will be able to open indoors from May 17, together with all other tourist accommodation, indoor entertainment and attractions.”

Further possible easements are subject to the public health situation remaining favourable.

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