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Regional daily reporter ejected from council meeting over CCTV footage

Chris MallettA regional daily’s political editor was removed from a public licensing hearing after the police said it was not in the public interest for him to be there.

The Derby Telegraph’s Chris Mallett, pictured left, was ejected from the Derby City Council meeting while CCTV footage was shown which police claim links a bar to a serious assault in which a man had three teeth knocked out.

Members of the authority’s general licensing sub committee were discussing what should happen to the licence of Deez bar, in Derby city centre, when Chris’s ejection took place.

Matthew Greene, representing Derbyshire Constabulary, argued the public – including reporters, but not representatives of Deez – should be barred from that part of the hearing “in the public interest”.

He said the CCTV was part of an ongoing police investigation and that making it public ran the risk of compromising this work.

Chris challenged this on the basis that the council “has an obligation to operate open government”.

He added: “In this case, the public interest in having an open hearing overwhelmingly outweighs any other public interest issues.”

Speaking on behalf of the councillors holding the hearing, a city council legal representative confirmed that the public would have to leave while the CCTV was played, saying:  “There is a matter of witness protection in this case.”

Chris said he would not go unless formally ejected from Friday’s meeting. He was then removed, before being later allowed back in.

The bar’s management has strongly denied the allegations made by police.

Chris told HTFP: “The logic behind councillors barring the public, including the media, from the hearing is reasonable.

“They did not want to set a precedent for the public being able to come in and view material, in this case CCTV footage, sensitive to an ongoing investigation.

“It is, however, the case that, to my knowledge, the only members of the public in that hearing were myself and the daughter of the relevant bar’s licence holder.

“I wonder if, in those circumstances, it should have been possible for the police to trust that we would not have included information in our story that could have jeopardised the case?”


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  • January 13, 2016 at 9:22 am

    This is an interesting case. In my mind the police were wrong to move to eject him and the council was wrong to back him up. The press is not the public and the council seems to have overlooked the fact that any reporter and newspaper worth their salt (for the peanuts they get paid) will know what can and cannot be said, and who can/not be identified. We find that police and other agencies are only too happy to supply the outcome of court proceedings where half of the case is stated in a press release.
    The whole matter is a regular problem for some newspapers where alleged crimes such as this are brought to council committee before they appear at court, if they ever do where we apply privilege to council meetings, but then have to report the proceedings of court at a later date. Some have been known to delay publication of the licensing committee outcome until after the court proceedings are concluded. Interesting to hear what HTFP’s legal experts would have to say on this.

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  • January 13, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Goes back to the issue of basic lack of trust and understanding between police and reporters. Also, when is a council legal officer entitled to speak on behalf of elected members?

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  • January 13, 2016 at 11:55 am

    @Pete. Council officials speak all the time at council meetings. It’s kind of what they get paid to do? The real question here is not whether the action was right or wrong from a moral/social/ethical point of view (clearly it was not), it’s whether it was LEGAL under the terms of the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act.
    The intro to this story is misleading because it makes it sound like the police made the decision. The police may have expressed a strong view, but the committee would have to vote to exclude. The reporter was chucked out by the committee after representations from the police. This may seem academic but it’s an important distinction. The reporter was right to make a stand, all credit to him, it’s not easy when all eyes are you and you have to do the right thing. Easier just to skulk away. I hope the paper is looking closely at the legality of this decision. I’m guessing, if the committee went through the proper process, they can get away with it as the law stands.

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  • January 13, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    I recall going to one council meeting a few years back where I overheard the chairman saying to a councillor (unaware I was round the corner)” I suppose we will have to let the press in…….”

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  • January 13, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    Hooray. A paper sending reporters to meetings! And a good one by sounds of it. I don’t think my district council has seen one for years as paper run from 20 miles away under JPs rather isolationist newsroom of the future policy.

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  • January 13, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    Can anyone here throw some properly researched legal light on the rights and wrongs of this decision?

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