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Crown Prosecution Service retracts claim over regional daily coverage

The Crown Prosecution Service has retracted a claim that a regional daily’s coverage of a sex trafficking case was prejudicial to ongoing legal proceedings.

The Oxford Mail published two stories last summer about the so-called Bullfinch child sex trafficking case.

In October, CPS barrister Neil Moore told judges at Oxford Crown Court that the stories in question constituted prejudicial material, opening the paper up to a potential contempt of court action.

Now, following a formal complaint from the Mail, the CPS has admitted the allegation was wrong.

In a letter to the paper, deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor Ruth Bowskill said: “I would accept that the information provided to Mr Moore was inaccurate and we have taken steps to ensure that this does not happen in the future.”

Ms Bowskill also admitted the CPS had not bothered to check the stories in question before Mr Moore made the allegation in open court before judge Patrick Eccles and June Mary Mowat.

However the CPS has declined to apologise to the paper or write to the two judges to retract the claims

The paper is prevented from publishing any further details about the stories in question by a court order.

Assistant editor Jason Collie said:  “The most disappointing element of this whole saga was how long it took for a proper admission of its error by the CPS, which still cannot bring itself to say sorry or contact the judges concerned to hold its hands up.

“Mistakes shouldn’t happen, but they do. A real measure of an organisation or a newspaper is how quickly it reacts to them and resolves them.

“It is also worrying that the CPS admitted that it didn’t even bother to check the stories at the centre of the allegation to verify what it was about to claim in court was true.

“The Bullfinch prosecutions are likely to be the most important in Oxford’s history. If the CPS can make such a basic mistake and untrue claim in court about short stories, we would want some reassurance it will not make the same basic level errors with any future trials.”