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Unrepentant editor says £500 fine was ‘small price to pay for truth’

Thomas SinclairA weekly editor who was fined £500 after naming a youth in a court has branded it “a small price to pay for the truth.”

Pembrokeshire Herald boss Thomas Sinclair was warned over his “cavalier approach” to court reporting restrictions after admitting a breach of Section 49 of the Children and Young Persons Act.

The case arose after the Herald published the name of a 17-year-old fishing boat captain who appeared before Haverfordwest youth court in January after crashing his vessel while asleep at the wheel.

Afterwards, Thomas said he was “baffled” by the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service to bring the case, saying the fine was a small price to pay.

Thomas, 37, of Hamilton Terrace, Milford Haven, was fined £500 and ordered to pay £85 prosecution costs at Llanelli Magistrates Court on Thursday.

District Judge Evans told him that the granting of anonymity for individuals appearing in youth court was a fundamental pillar of the British legal system.

“You as the editor knew this defendant was a youth and at the very least you ought to have made proper enquiries,” said the judge.

“This is a serious matter. This was a cavalier approach to reporting.”

But speaking afterwards, Thomas said: “I have been fined £500 today for naming the captain of a fishing vessel who crashed it after falling asleep at the wheel.

“Although the publication of the defendants’s name was made in error, it remains my view that it was in the public interest that he should have been named.

“That captain was just under the age of eighteen, and therefore legally should not have been named in the report in The Pembrokeshire Herald. However, no harm was done. As highlighted in today’s case the captain was already known to all.

“I fully respect that reporting restrictions are in place to protect the vulnerable; but this is not one of those cases. The decision the CPS made to bring the case to court genuinely baffled me.

Thomas added: “We have to, as a newspaper push the boundaries on what can be reported, a free and fair press is the cornerstone of democracy.”

“£500 is a small price to pay for the truth.”

Mathew Paul, defending, repeated his claim from an earlier hearing that Milford Haven Port Authority was also guilty of breaching the Act in its issuing of a press release in relation to the teenager’s appearance in court.

Mr Paul said editorial guidelines at the Pembrokeshire Herald had been “tightened” in the wake of the breach.

22 comments

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  • October 6, 2016 at 4:04 pm
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    What a fool. This is a blow to the credibility of journalists everywhere. By all means challenge court rulings (it’s not as though sound judgement is always applied) but blatantly breaking the law like this doesn’t do anyone any favours.

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  • October 6, 2016 at 4:25 pm
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    I’m afraid this Sinclair character is bringing the profession into disrepute here with the incredible amount of hubris and confusion in his statements after this case.

    “Although the publication of the defendants’s name was made in error, it remains my view that it was in the public interest that he should have been named.”
    Argue that case in court then like real journalists do up and down the country. Bit more difficult to do when his paper wasn’t in court for the hearing I’d imagine though.

    “I fully respect that reporting restrictions are in place to protect the vulnerable; but this is not one of those cases.”
    Restrictions are in place to protect all under-18s irrespective of vulnerabilities, so yes it is ‘one of those cases.’

    “The decision the CPS made to bring the case to court genuinely baffled me.”
    Not surprising considering he is unaware of the law.

    “We have to, as a newspaper push the boundaries on what can be reported.”
    So was it “an error” as he says before, or was he “pushing the boundaries”. It can’t be both. Or can it? Who knows with this nonsense.

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  • October 6, 2016 at 4:41 pm
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    How was he pushing the boundaries of what can be reported when, by his own admission, the name was printed by mistake? I like to push the boundaries of spelling and grammar.

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  • October 6, 2016 at 4:52 pm
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    Some people’s arrogance never ceases to amaze me!

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  • October 6, 2016 at 5:13 pm
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    I don’t understand he can be so confidently bullish about what he admits was an ‘error’.
    What is his background? Did he become an editor without needing to understand how the law works, and media law especially? All the editors I’ve worked for were absolute sticklers for the law, knew when to push and how. They’d happily challenge court rulings and, whenever in any doubt, consulted the company solicitors.
    What has this chap done? Been judge and jury in deciding it was right to name someone the courts said could not be identified.
    And crowing about it does him no good. If I was District Judge Evans, I’d be hauling him back before the courts to make sure he thinks again.

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  • October 6, 2016 at 5:31 pm
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    Saddened Journo: If you’re keen to know about his history, which is nothing to do with journalism, try Google.
    It’s particularly interesting when you add Ali G to his name in the search bar.

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  • October 6, 2016 at 6:28 pm
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    It’s a tough call whether this fella’s arrogance outweighs his stupidity or vice versa. Oh, and I reckon HTFP is doing journalists a big disservice by describing Thomas as such.

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  • October 6, 2016 at 8:25 pm
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    Arrogant! Why doesn’t he just put his hands up and admit he is wrong. End of.

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  • October 7, 2016 at 8:13 am
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    That’s the state of the industry I suppose. Reminds me of the stories you used to read about Iraq, where the army would be manning a road block or something and a private security contractor would turn up, randomly shoot up a couple of cars then get himself trapped in the middle of a minefield and have to be rescued.

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  • October 7, 2016 at 11:20 am
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    This bod puts a bit more shame on all of us who try to maintain standards and improve reputations. An absolute shower.

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  • October 7, 2016 at 12:26 pm
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    Thank you for the prompt to search Google with the Ali G connection.

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  • October 7, 2016 at 1:15 pm
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    He might consider this a small price to pay now, but it could have pretty damaging implications for his future career prospects. Then again, if he’s managed to become a newspaper editor even after the ‘Ali G’ court case then he probably doesn’t worry about such things.

    I notice he was actually previously a law student from googling his name!

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  • October 7, 2016 at 2:07 pm
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    Thanks for da Ali gee tip off ,what a clown!

    And he has work in the regional press?
    unbelievable
    No further questions m’lud

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  • October 7, 2016 at 9:48 pm
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    He could have told the truth without naming the boy. Simple.

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  • October 8, 2016 at 2:18 pm
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    £500 is a small price to pay for the truth, he says.
    And the truth is: his reputation isn’t worth tuppence.
    He’s so self-deluded I think he should seek help.

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  • October 10, 2016 at 4:20 pm
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    A 17-year-old crashing a fishing vessel? Not exactly the Panama Papers. Why beclown your paper with such haughty foolery!

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