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