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Editor slams ‘right to censorship’ after stories removed

A regional daily editor says lawful information is being “erased from history” after three of his paper’s stories were removed from Google searches under the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’.

Simon O’Neill’s latest warning comes after the Oxford Mail and Oxford Times, which are both under his leadership, were informed the stories had been removed.

The articles involved report a conviction for planning to deal cocaine, allegations of cheating at an Oxford University college and a £1.1m pay-out for a former high-flying executive.

A decision in the summer by the European Court of Justice means people can apply to Google to have “irrelevant” or “out of date” stories removed, which Simon has branded a “right to censorship”.

The ruling was slammed at last week’s Society of Editors conference by the culture secretary, Sajid Javid, who claimed criminals were using it to “airbrush” their convictions from history.

The three latest stories concern the 2009 conviction of Oxford resident Kayleigh Brackett for possession of cocaine with intent to supply, a 2009 High Court claim for road crash injuries by financial executive Ingrid Van Wees and a 1998 story about students at Oxford Business College facing the prospect of resitting their summer exams after a probe into “irregularities”.

It is not known who applied to Google for the stories to be removed from its searches.

The Mail has previously covered the case of Robert Daniels-Dwyer  who successfully applied for a 2006 Mail report about him stealing £200 worth of items from Boots to be removed.

Said Simon:  “Our concern is the misuse of this ruling to effectively erase from history legitimate and lawful information from public view.

“Whilst we do not know who has requested that this information is removed from Google’s searches, the question for all our readers has to be: why would someone try to hide these stories from public view?

“In the majority of cases it is to prevent people learn legitimate information about the subjects of stories and to, in effect, conjure up a sanitised version of history.”

The Mail has published a piece outlining the developments and the stories concerned, which date back as far as 1998. The Newsquest-owned title’s website also features links to the original stories.