An editor’s conviction for identifying a sex offence victim led to the closure of the newspaper where the offending article appeared, a court has heard.
Thomas Sinclair, left, told Swansea Crown Court the Ceredigion Herald was “killed off” as a result of his prosecution for the offence, saying the publicity surrounding the case had a negative effect on advertisers.
His conviction, which he is now appealing, followed a report on a voyeurism case which identified “familial links” between the victim and the defendant, potentially enabling the public to make a “jigsaw” identification.
Sinclair was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay £2,150 in compensation, costs and a surcharge after being convicted in May.
The Herald, which was launched in March 2016, ceased publication last month – although it still retains a website.
Sinclair told the appeal hearing on Friday: “We shut the newspaper down. The publicity surrounding this particular case had a negative effect on our advertisers.”
Judge Keith Thomas, sitting with two magistrates, rejected the first limb of the appeal when he ruled that the court report had contained so much detail that the victim could have been identified, even if only by family, friends and those who already knew something about her family.
According to a report of the hearing by the Western Telegraph, Sinclair claimed he knew nothing about the report until he was made aware that police were investigating a complaint and wanted to interview him.
Sinclair also edits the Carmarthenshire, Llanelli and Pembrokeshire Heralds, which have all been launched in the last five years.
As editor of four titles, Thomas said all stories would be emailed to him before publication, but he could not read them all and, although he took an interest in the major stories, he left the rest to his deputy editor Jon Coles.
He said that a time sheet maintained by a security guard at the group’s main premises in Milford Haven showed he had left the building on 23 June 2016, at 11.26am – before the report had been emailed to him.
He then travelled to Heathrow airport for a flight to Oman “to try to raise business investment”, and consequently had not had any editorial input in relation to the article.
But cross-examined by Craig Jones, responding to the appeal, he agreed he had not mentioned to the interviewing police officer anything about a trip to Oman on the day in question or about an unread email.
Mr Jones asked Sinclair if he was “trying to wriggle out of your responsibility”, to which he responded he assumed he had read the email containing the story “because I read everything”, but only realised afterwards that he had not.
Quizzed whether the reality was that he had seen article, Sinclair said: “No, I didn’t see the article. I had my main man nurturing the court reporter and checking her articles. It was agreed that Jon Coles would check her articles but with me having the final say.”
He agreed he had told the police officer that in his opinion the article “sailed close to the wind, but by the skin of its teeth it’s OK”, but said on Friday that if he had edited the article he probably would have left out some of the information it contained.
The court decided it needed to hear evidence from Mr Coles, who will connect to the court on 22 January by video link with Haverfordwest Magistrates Court.
The hearing was adjourned until then.