A judge has warned a journalist he could face arrest after telling a court he did not want to testify at a legal appeal launched by his editor.
Ceredigion Herald editor Thomas Sinclair is appealing a £1,500 fine handed down after he was found guilty of putting the victim of a sexual offence at risk of identification.
His case was due to be heard at Swansea Crown Court on Friday, but was postponed after Herald assistant editor Jon Coles contacted the court and said he did not want to give evidence, listing his reasons as “autism, depression and a dislike for cities and travelling.”
Craig Jones, the barrister arguing in favour of the initial conviction, told the court Jon had said that after being told he would be required as a witness he had contacted “witness protection” which the court took as meaning witness support.
Jon had then visited his doctor who had written a letter listing his health difficulties.
According to a report in the Western Telegraph, Judge Geraint Walters said it would have been better if he had been advised “not to go running to his GP” but of the danger he was in of arrest and detention.
Judge Walters said if the appeal had gone ahead and Jon had not attended he would have issued a warrant for his arrest.
Following a hearing in May, Thomas was also ordered to pay £2,150 in compensation, costs and a surcharge after being convicted by District Judge David Parsons.
It followed a report in the Ceredigion Herald on a voyeurism case which identified “familial links” between the victim and the defendant, potentially enabling the public to make a “jigsaw” identification.
Thomas 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 appeal will now be heard on 15 September and Mr Jones said he would issue a fresh order instructing Jon to attend.
Thomas told HTFP: “It is disappointing that Jon Coles was unable to attend court today as a prosecution witness; I want the case over and done with. I wish him a speedy recovery and hope he can attend next month.
“However, following meeting counsel today, I am now more confident than ever that I will be able to prove next month that I did not break the law in relation to the publication of the voyeurism article in the Ceredigion Herald last year.”