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Regional daily hits back at QC over coverage of manslaughter case

A regional daily has hit back at a prominent barrister who objected to his client being described as a “killer” despite a conviction for manslaughter.

Millionaire Brighton property developer Mike Holland was jailed for nine months on Friday after being found guilty of manslaughter of gross negligence along with his site foreman, Grant Oakes.

During the case, barrister John Cooper QC criticised Brighton daily The Argus’s coverage of the case, saying that calling him a killer was “offensive and unhelpful.”

But the paper hit back in a Saturday editorial published the day after the sentencing, saying: “It is our job to report from court.”

Holland, of King’s Road, Brighton, and Oakes, of Elm Drive, Hove, were found guilty of the manslaughter by gross negligence of carpenter Dave Clark, who fell through a roof void at a stable building and died of his injuries a month later.

The defendants had previously been warned by the Health and Safety Executive that the Stanmer Park stables building site was dangerous a year before the accident.

Mr Cooper told the court his client had been “traduced” in the press and had been the victims of harassment during the trial.

A previous complaint by Mr Cooper against the use of the word “killer” to describe Holland had been previously rejected by press watchdog the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

The paper said in its editorial:  “This newspaper was criticised in court for our coverage of the Mike Holland case yesterday.

“His barrister repeated previous claims – which were rejected by the newspaper regulator – that we should not have used the word ‘killer’.

“Killer is a very strong word and we can understand that nobody would want that title. Holland had built up a deservedly strong and positive reputation in Brighton and Hove.

“As was mentioned at length in court, he has done a lot of work with charities. These very good deeds must be remembered amid all this.

“But try explaining that to Beverley, the partner of Dave Clark who died when Mike Holland and Grant Oakes failed to heed the warnings about the dangers at the Stanmer House stables.

“The judge said it had been an inexplicable failure to address an issue Holland and Oakes had been warned would cause serious injury or death.

“So we completely refute barrister John Cooper’s claims that our reporting has been irresponsible.

“It is our job to inform our readers how a failure of this kind can lead to the loss of a life and have a huge effect on others.”


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  • September 19, 2017 at 11:27 am

    What would he like the Argus to say – killer by default or killer but he wasn’t really to blame? Yes he was. HSE charges are criminal ones and he was told before it happened and he did nothing to stop it. So he is a convicted killer and no longer can a “quiet” chat from a man in a wig stop a journalist from saying it like it is and putting it in an editorial. Great story.

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  • September 19, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    The ones who were “offensive and unhelpful” were the killer and his barrister.

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