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Editor to appeal £1,500 fine for identifying sex offence victim

Thomas SinclairA weekly newspaper editor has been fined £1,500 after being found guilty of identifying the victim of a sexual offence.

Thomas Sinclair, editor of the Herald series in Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Camarthenshire, appeared at Haverfordwest Magistrates Court this morning.

It followed a report in the Ceredigion Herald on a voyeurism case which identified “familial links” between the victim and the defendant, enabling the public to make a “jigsaw” identification.

Sinclair had told a previous hearing that he had only “skim read” the article before it was published and said “people probably already knew who she [the victim] was.”

The 37-year-old, pictured above, had previously denied the charge at Llanelli Magistrates Court, but District judge David Parsons found him guilty.

He was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay £1,500 compensation, £500 costs and £150 surcharge. However, he has since made clear he intends to appeal.

Sinclair, of Hamilton Terrace, Milford Haven, had been charged with the offence under the Sexual Offences Act 1992.

In the report, which was written by a trainee journalist, the Herald named the guilty man and gave details of his age and occupation before detailing his “familial links” to the victim.

Sinclair had told the earlier hearing that the article could not be considered a breach of the Act because so few people read the paper that it was unlikely anyone who knew the victim or the guilty man would have read it.

The court was also read out an extract from a police interview in which he told officers that people “probably already knew who she was.”

Delivering his ruling at Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court, Judge Parsons said the woman lived in a small village and when “coupled with local knowledge,” work colleagues, friends, relatives and acquaintances, could have identified her after reading the article.

The judge said: “The protection of victims of sexual offences is a matter of considerable concern.

“This court must be mindful of the real psychological harm to the victim, harm confirmed by this victim in her victim impact statement.

“This offence has enormous potential to undermine the confidence of victims reporting sexual offences.”

In a statement read out in court, the victim said she had been told before the sex offence trial that her details would not be made public.

She said: “Finding out about the article has set me back and means the stress of this case is not over as it means there is now another court case involving me.”

Matthew Paul, defending Sinclair, said: “It is regretted by Mr Sinclair that this slipped through the net. He did not himself have any particular role in reading it … he skim read it at best.”

Following his conviction, Sinclair said: “District Judge Parsons’ decision was badly wrong. The District Judge reached factual conclusions that were not reasonably available to him, and made errors of law.

“I maintain that there was no likelihood of the information in the report leading members of the public to identify the complainant.

“I will be appealing against both the conviction and sentence, and fully expect that the District Judge’s decision will be overturned by the higher Courts”.