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Editorial boss voices ‘surprise’ over IPSO photo warning

IanCarterEditorialDirectorKM (1)A regional editorial boss has shared his “surprise” after the press watchdog issued a warning about photographing a defendant in a court case.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation issued the advisory notice on behalf of Sarah Moulds, who denies kicking and hitting a horse.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Moulds’s request, stating that she and 18 other friends and colleagues did not wish to be photographed, contacted, or approached for comment. was circulated to a number of IPSO members on Thursday.

Such notices are non-binding, but the decision to issue it in the first place has been criticised by a media lawyer and free speech campaigners.

Moulds, of Somerby, Leicestershire, appeared in court yesterday to plead not guilty to kicking and hitting the horse, and not protecting an animal for which she was responsible from pain, suffering and injury following an incident at Gunby, Lincolnshire.

Iliffe Media weekly the Stamford Mercury was among the regional titles to cover the hearing on its website, accompanied by a photo of Moulds.

Speaking ahead of yesterday morning’s hearing, Iliffe editorial director Ian Carter, pictured, told HTFP: “We have not received the notice, but I was surprised to see the Telegraph report.

“IPSO advisory notices can be helpful and we always consider them carefully. In this instance, we will be treating the case in the same way as any other, and I fully expect that to include a picture of the defendant.

“As IPSO acknowledge, there is an overriding public interest defence in the Editors’ Code.”

The Melton Times, which also covered the hearing on its website but did not carry a photo of Moulds, declined to comment when approached by HTFP.

Media lawyer Mark Stephens, a partner at Howard Kennedy solicitors, speculated that smaller newspapers without legal advice “might be intimidated by the notice”.

He told the Telegraph: “We have an open justice principle and it doesn’t seem to me there is any good reason for this advisory to be circulated. It seems to me a completely over-reaching and inappropriate notice.”

A spokesman for Index on Censorship, the campaigning body for freedom of expression, added: “The advisory does raise some questions – particularly around why as many as 19 individuals are named on it.

“It may have been put out for good reason, but we need more information about how and why the decision was taken to do so.”

Former primary school teacher Moulds, 37, appeared at Boston Magistrates’ Court yesterday morning in a prosecution case brought by the RSPCA.

A solicitor acting on her behalf told the court she was trying to reprimand the horse, a grey pony called Bruce, and said tying it to a trailer would have been bad practice.

The incident was captured on camera during a meet of the Cottesmore Hunt.

Moulds elected to have a trial at crown court and was bailed until the next hearing at Lincoln Crown Court on 28 February.

In a statement, IPSO told the Telegraph: “Through its privacy notice system, IPSO passes on specific requests from individuals to editors and journalists under the Editors’ Code of Practice, including in relation to privacy and harassment, on a private and confidential basis. Editors retain full control of decision making.

“Because the system relies on confidentiality, it would not be appropriate to discuss the specifics of any individual notices.

“While any request passed on is non-binding, for many years the system has been highly effective at alerting editors and journalists about individuals who do not want to comment to the press or have concerns about possible intrusion or harassment.

“There is a public interest defence available should editors consider that there is a justification for persisting in photographing or attempting to contact an individual for comment, which applies whether the desist request has been made through an advisory notice or otherwise.

“Privacy notices do not prevent reporting on matters of public interest, including court proceedings, and do not supersede the standards set by the Editors’ Code.”