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'Centralised subbing row' could spell the end for HaleDowning bail is refused

Campaigning editor Don Hale believes he is about to lose his job – in a row over centralised subbing of Johnston Press Derbyshire titles.

The Matlock Mercury editor is currently in the headlines for his work to free convicted killer Stephen Downing, who he believes is innocent. Today’s Daily Star claims Hollywood actor Liam Neeson is keen to play Don Hale in a film about the case.

A bail application for Downing was refused by the High Court today after an administrative bungle by the Crown Prosecution service.

Don Hale, and Downing’s family and friends, were hoping for a homecoming celebration today but papers relating to the hearing were submitted late and the application was turned down. A new hearing will be held on January 20.

But Don Hale believes his time at the Mercury could be coming to an end – and is under the impression he has been offered a take-it-or-leave-it payoff deal.

He is known to disagree with plans for centralised subbing, which would see himself and other editors moving to the local headquarters in Ilkeston.

He told HoldTheFrontPage: “We’ve been told that centralised subbing is definitely coming in, which would mean three of four editors based there, each with a different production day.

“We would lose the personal contact a paper like this needs. We’d only be able to get back to the patch for half a day or a day each week and more of the content would move over to press releases and handouts.

“I’ve seen this happen elsewhere and I’ve seen it fail.”

He said the company had been discussing its plans since January but there had been little progress since late summer.

Don contends he was told January was the cut-off point for him staying or leaving, and says the ball is now in Johnston’s court.

Johnston Press group MD Tim Bowdler said he was unaware of such an issue regarding his editor’s position and any discussions would be held privately.

Don, meanwhile, is currently negotiating deals with TV, book and film companies for the rights to his story about Stephen Downing, jailed 27 years ago for the murder of typist Wendy Sewell.

It is only his continued denials that have kept Downing in prison for so long. He could have been out on licence years ago if he had admitted to killing Wendy. But Hale says his investigations show that Downing is innocent.

Only Don Hale’s campaigning has brought about an appeal for Downing, and the bail hearing for his release, pending that appeal.

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