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Journalist evicted from inquest into sudden death

A community news blogger was ejected from a coroner’s court inquest into a sudden death while two other journalists were allowed to stay.

Simon Perry, who runs the VentnorBlog on the Isle of Wight, was at the court in Newport to cover the inquest of a 37-year-old female council worker who died in September 2008.

Journalists from the Isle of Wight County Press and the BBC were permitted to stay in the court on Tuesday morning.

VB has been covering local news stories for over four years and Simon has been a National Union of Journalists member for nine years.

The inquest had previously been postponed twice and Simon says he believes the “circumstances surrounding her death may be of public interest”.

He wrote: “We were told by the coroner’s officer, Richard Leedham, that the coroner, John Matthews, didn’t recognise us as a member of the press and he didn’t want us in ‘his court’.

“We said we would, as a member of the public, like to enter the court. This was also refused. We were told that the court was full and there was no room for us.

“Telling him that someone had offered to step out of the court to make a space for us, he said that would make no difference.”

Simon said he was also threatened with eviction by security guards but decided to leave as he did not wish to intrude into the family’s grief any further.

He had previously received communication from John Matthews in relation to VB’s reporting of a previous, unrelated sudden death in December 2008.

An article had been changed at the request of a local police press officer, prompting Mr Matthews to contact VB to issue a “private warning” but adding that no further action would be taken.

Simon’s wife Sally, who also writes for the blog, told HTFP: “The coroner made a statement to those in court and we’ve requested a copy of that.

“Simon is planning to speak to the NUJ about further action.”

The story has attracted over 50 comments which have been mainly supportive of the blog.

Richard Leedham told HTFP the coroner’s office would be making no comment and that the statement which was read out in court would not be made available to us.


Mike (26/02/2010 08:45:04)
The Isle Of Wight is a foreign country – they do things differently there.

Will (26/02/2010 09:45:26)
This is typical of the kind of behaviour I’ve seen from coroners before. In the past I’ve been told I couldn’t name a dead girl in an inquest by coroner William Morris at Ely. He imposed a Section 39 ban which is clearly contrary to law. Coroners should learn the law before they start preaching it to others.

Steve (26/02/2010 12:55:41)
Since when has a “community news blogger” become a “journalist”? Since he/she managed to join the NUJ who, let’s face it, will take money off anyone. Any idiot with a pc can claim to be a news blogger.

Jack (26/02/2010 13:47:05)
Regarding William Morris
I’ve known him do a quick inquest in his office without telling anyone, during lunch in a particularly long different inquest – then expressed surprise that a journalist be interested in it, as well as refusing to go into proper details in other hearings as it may upset the family.
Equally, I’ve also done covered a full inquest with him as the only person in the court apart from Morris himself and his officer – he was excellent and insisted on spelling all the medical terms out for me.
So both sides with him, but he is very much on the side of the family.

JustifiedPessamism (26/02/2010 14:36:03)
…as perhaps you would expect him to be Jack, given that an inquest is one of the most horrific ordeals a family can go through.
The coroners in our patch are pretty good, in as much as they are not completely dismissive of the press. Seems to me in this case that the court has a grievance with Mr Perry which goes quite deep. Regadless of people’s opinions on news bloggers, if there was space in the court’s public area, he should have been allowed in. regardless of the court’s views on his journalistic credibility.

Stuart (01/03/2010 15:03:51)
“Steve (26/02/2010 12:55)
Since when has a “community news blogger” become a “journalist”? “
I don’t really see the difference, but I don’t really see the difference between the words “elitist” and “snob” either.