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Coroner's support for reporter asked to leave inquest

Reporter Karl Grafton had an uncomfortable encounter when an irate man tried to get him to leave an inquest he was covering.

The Exmouth Journal man explained why he was entitled to stay – and was backed up by the coroner.

The incident happened in Exeter during an inquest in to the suicide of a 46-year-old woman from Exmouth when coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland was about to sum up and give her verdict.

Karl was the only press representative at the hearing, along with three members of the deceased woman’s family – including her sister and her husband.

Karl said: “Dr Earland asked the family if they had any questions and they talked to each for a while then went quiet.

“There was an uncomfortable pause before the man turned to me and asked me to leave the court.

“That had never happened to me before in over four years of reporting. I told him I was allowed to be there as it was a public inquest but he insisted I should leave and that I had no right to be there.

“This made me feel very uncomfortable because I was aware of the sensitive nature of the inquest’s subject. But I knew I had to stay there.

“The family may well have just been embarrassed by the circumstances. But there may have been other circumstances to come out that I would have missed if I left the court.

“I turned to the Coroner and repeated that I had a right to be present. She told the family that by law inquests had to be held in public and members of the press were allowed to be present. But the man again insisted that I had no right to be there and that I should leave.”

Dr Earland told the relative: “This is my court and I am in charge here. If you continue with this I will have to ask you to leave the court.”

After the inquest had finished the man approached Karl to insist that no report be run in the paper, but was told the final decision lay with the editor, Mary Evans.

Karl and Mary decided that there was no reason not to run a report, and the next day she rang the family to explain.

Mary said: “Karl handled the situation properly. We had to treat the family sensitively but I explained we had a right to run the report in the next available edition.

“I see The Journal as the paper of record for the area it serves. And it was in the public interest to report the inquest’s findings.”

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