AddThis SmartLayers

Weekly publishes police officer’s address after journalist’s court challenge

A weekly newspaper journalist won the right to publish a serving police officer’s address after a successful court challenge.

Former West Mercia and current Metropolitan Police officer Michael Vincent pleaded not guilty at Hereford Magistrates Court to a charge of assault by beating Alison Vincent on 28 April at Worcester.

John Nutman, defending, argued that a Section 11 restriction should be imposed to restrict the publication of Vincent’s address, citing current security fears in the wake of the London and Manchester terror attacks.

But the Hereford Times was able to publish his address after reporter Ben Goddard argued against the restriction, using knowledge he had recently revised ahead of his senior exams.

Hereford Magistrates Court

Hereford Magistrates Court

Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 gives courts the power to make a direction prohibiting the publication of a name or other matter but only where the court has exercised either its inherent or statutory jurisdiction to withhold a name or other matter from the public in the proceedings.

It is rare for the court to make such a direction in respect of a defendant.

Chair of magistrates Robyn Lee accepted that current “tensions” meant that the risk to police officers was “significantly higher” than it would normally be.

But Ben, who recently took the NCTJ’s National Qualification in Journalism exams, argued that there were not sufficient national security grounds to impose such an order to deny the publication of Vincent’s address.

He said: “The public has the right to know. We have people ringing up regularly with requests for their address to be withheld which are declined. Being a police officer is no different to any other profession.”

Ben added that in practicality only the street name would be disclosed and not the full address and, after 15 minutes of deliberation, magistrates agreed not to grant the Section 11 order.

Mrs Lee said: “We must be satisfied an order would act in the public interest of open justice. Allowing names or addresses to be withheld is rare and case law suggests the court should only restrict in the administration of open justice. I don’t feel this is the case in these circumstances.

“We refuse the restriction but note the representation from the Hereford Times that they only print the street name and not the full address which is also part of our decision.”

Vincent, of Humphreys Close, Stroud, is due to stand trial at Redditch Magistrates Court in July.

Ben told HTFP: “I had to think on my feet without any McNae’s with me, but luckily I took my NQJ exams around three months ago and had it off the top of my head with regards to what to go with.”


You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • June 8, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    A reporter in court! I don’t think this novelty will catch on.

    If this person is found not guilty, his address will be public knowledge for no reason. The paper could have waited until the end of the case to chose to publish it. The person he is accused of assaulting has the same surname, so highly likely a relative. So they could have published the victims address as well.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(17)
  • June 8, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Phyrric victories everywhere. There used to be a code of ethics and due care and thought put into naming and shaming. Now it seems to be a matter of goal-scoring.
    The newspapers have not done themselves proud by all but killing off court reporting.
    Courts do themselves little favours by trying to prevent the media from doing their rightful job.
    But I’m just a bit ‘who cares’ on this one and a little confused as to naming the victim like this. This one might come back and bite all concerned on the ‘arris.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(7)
  • June 12, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    Well done Ben. To help m’learned friends and the courts to correctly apply the law in relation to reporting restrictions in future, he should email the Bench with this link to the current (2016) Judicial College guidelines: “Reporting Restrictions in the Criminal Courts”.
    Page 26 is particularly informative on Section 11 matters:
    Dave S and Saddened Journo should have a good read too.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(2)