21 December 2014

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Weekly reporter fights off bid to ban him from court

A weekly newspaper journalist has successfully fought a bid to ban him from reporting a trial at magistrates court because of his “heavy reporting” of previous cases which a witness claimed “intimidated” her.

Gareth Davies, chief reporter at the Croydon Advertiser, has been covering a case at Croydon Magistrates’ Court but claimed defence solicitors were attempting to have him removed while a key witness gives evidence.

He was told that a defence witness, who is the mother of the defendant, had an issue with him and did not want to give evidence while he is in the room.

But Gareth successfully fought off the bid to exclude him, which would also apply to all other members of the press, after making a submission to the court this afternoon.

Gareth has been tweeting regular updates from his @Gareth_Davies09 account and said he believed it would be unprecedented if a specific journalist was banned from being in court.

Tweeting about his success, he wrote: “Update: I made my submission and the judge rejected the application. I’m not to be excluded from the court.

He reported the words of the district judge who said: “What I find difficult in seeing is how witness will find the press intimidating.”

Defendant John Page has now been found guilty of threatening a 13-year-old girl and will be sentenced on 28 November.

And Gareth revealed that the Advertiser’s successful Lillian’s Law campaign to bring in new drug-driving laws was linked to the case, because Page knocked over and killed 14-year-old Lillian Groves after smoking cannabis, which sparked the campaign.

Gareth was praised by several regional editors and other journalists who had been following the unfolding saga on Twitter.

Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill tweeted: “Thank God common sense has prevailed at Croydon magistrates court. And full marks to @Gareth_Davies09 for sticking to his guns.”

South Wales Argus editor Kevin Ward said:  “Follow @Gareth_Davies09 for updates on a ridiculous attack on press freedom today. Thankfully he (and common sense) has won the day. ”

The unfolding story can be seen on Gareth’s Twitterfeed below.

5 Comments

  1. grey haired hack

    Disgraceful, justice has to be seen to be done surely? Having an (accurate) account of someone’s court case in a newspaper is part of the justice process in that defendants should feel some shame for committing their crimes in the first place. These days, it’s probably the only opportunity to shame a guilty person somehow.

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  2. CTHo

    The fact that defence lawyers tried to bar the press from reporting on its own witnesses – on whose testimony jurors are supposed to acquit their client – says a lot about their confidence (or lack thereof) in their case.

    Had the judge complied, it would have set a terrifying precedent.

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  3. Digger

    Name the defence lawyers. Let’s see them shamed as well.

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  4. Capt. Starlight

    Mind boggling. Bit amazing that JPs even went out to consider. Clerk should have instantly advised them of attempted nonsense.

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  5. Observer

    Slightly off point – I once had a defence lawyer threaten in court to sue me for libel if I reported about his client having a dangerous dog.

    I was that close to laughing in his face, but just smiled and explained the law to him.

    They think they know it all – thank heaven for trained journalists.

    Well done Gareth.

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