A regional editor and court reporter have been subjected to online abuse after accurately covering a transgender paedophile’s court case.
Southern Daily Echo editor Ben Fishwick and court reporter Timothy Edgley were bombarded with “totally unacceptable” abusive messages on X after broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer took issue with the newspaper’s reporting on the conviction of Sophie Louise Carter.
The Echo reported that Carter, who pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images of children, had been prosecuted under the name Dominic Mark Carter, but a subsequent sentencing hearing at Southampton Crown Court was told the defendant now identifies as a woman and goes by the name “Sophie Louise”.
Carter’s defence counsel Ed Warren also referred to his client as “she” and “her” during the hearing, but the Echo’s accurate coverage prompted Talkradio host Julia to take aim at Tim on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Julia, who began her journalism career on the East London Advertiser, wrote: “Hey Daily Echo and [Timothy]. Why are you using female pronouns for this convicted male paedophile?
“He’s a man. He was charged under his real name – Dominic Carter, not Sophie Carter. Wearing pink doesn’t magically turn him into a woman.”
In response, Ben wrote: “Hi Julia. Thanks for your question. We’ve used the pronouns she/her in the court report as they were used in the sentencing hearing by Carter’s barrister.
“You know both names as they’re included in the article. Thanks, Ben.”
In a further attack, Julia added: “This is the Daily Echo editor Ben Fishwick defending the use of female pronouns to describe a paedophile man in a court report.
“If his barrister had claimed Dominic Carter was a cat in court, would you have reported that as fact too?”
Supporters of Hartley-Brewer accused the Echo journalists of “supporting a paedophile”, and were told they were “disgusting” and “sick”, among other insults, after the posts sparked hundreds of comments.
Guidance by the Independent Press Standards Organisation states that journalists “have an obligation to ensure that a report of what was heard in court is accurate and not misleading”, while further IPSO advice specifically for reporters covering court cases involving transgender defendants makes clear that both chosen pronouns and previous gender identities can be reported.
Speaking to HTFP, Ben said: “Some of the abusive tweets were completely bizarre – and all of it was totally unacceptable. I only spoke out after seeing the amount of tweets our court reporter was receiving throughout the day about the story.
“There is nothing wrong with a healthy debate on the rights/wrongs of reporting any given issue but when it descends into abuse or absurdity it doesn’t do anyone any good.”
Julia has also been approached for further comment, via Talk Radio owner News UK.