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Regional journalist on wrong end of court report

A weekly newspaper court reporter will remember the final days of his 40-year career – as a victim of crime.

The Doncaster Free Press’s Russ Newton found himself the subject of abusive calls and a threatened attack by a dog after one of his stories appeared on the front of sister title the South Yorkshire Times.

The drama unfolded after his name was read out in prosecution evidence as the target of a telephone hate campaign initiated by someone who took strong exception to his exclusive tale.

As a result Russ found himself back at Doncaster Magistrates’ Court last week when the case of the Mexborough man who had featured in the Times’ article in June came to court.

The splash told readers of the Johnston Press weekly that the defendant had been given a Sexual Offences Prevention Order because he had been lurking round a local sports centre and parks wearing a security guard’s jacket to talk to young children.

Within hours of publication the defendant made a series of threatening and distressing phone calls to several members of staff, both male and female, at the Doncaster newsroom.

Angry that he wasn’t put through to Russ he told colleagues he would set his dog onto him. They feared there would be a violent incident so police were informed.

The 27-year-old was arrested that day and in court he pleaded guilty to an offence of using a telecommunications instrument to cause annoyance, for which he was given 200 hours of community service and warned he would go to jail if he breaks the order.

After the case Russ said: “I must have covered thousands of court cases since I started as a reporter in 1974 and that is the first time my name has been read out in open court as a victim.

“It was an odd feeling to be sitting only feet away from the man who had made the threats and it became even more weird when the prosecutor repeated what he had intended to stick up my bottom!

“After he was sentenced I felt I had to rise to the challenge to get a snatch pic of him as he left court so we would have a complete package for next week’s South Yorkshire Times.”

Russ, pictured, can relax from next month when he takes voluntary redundancy. “I suppose that’s the sort of thing I’ll miss,” he added

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  • August 20, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I’m glad it was cleared up further down in the text – but for a moment there I thought Russ had been threatened by a talking dog!

    Now that would be a story to end a 40 year career. Good luck Russ.

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