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Woman convicted over false claims that forced reporter to flee home

Amy FentonA woman has been convicted after making false claims that led to a regional daily journalist being forced to flee her home.

Amy Fenton, the reporter in question, has shared her relief after Eleanor Williams was found guilty of perverting the course of justice over false claims she had been trafficked by an Asian grooming gang.

Amy, pictured, was moved into police protection in May 2020 while working as Newsquest’s chief reporter in South Cumbria after receiving a death threat while initially covering the allegations made by Williams, as well as her subsequent arrest and court case.

A gang of men also abused Amy’s then-colleagues at the Barrow-in-Furness office of Newsquest’s South Cumbria daily The Mail in a separate incident, which came after some readers wrongly claimed there was a “conspiracy between the press and the police to cover up crimes”.

Police in the town had responded to the allegation by confirming a year-long investigation had found “no evidence” of a gang of men exploiting young women in Barrow.

Almost three years on, 22-year-old Williams has now been found guilty of eight counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice following a trial at Preston Crown Court.

Amy, who now works as a reporter for Reach plc’s Lancs Live, told HTFP: “The conviction of Ellie Williams will no doubt bring a huge sense of relief to all of her victims as well as to myself.

“We’ve waited almost three years for justice and I know personally how the victims have shown great dignity in not risking prejudicing the outcome of the trial by remaining silent until now.

“From my perspective, being targeted simply for reporting accurately and within the constraints of the laws which govern news publishers, was incredibly tough and I only hoped that justice would prevail, which it now has.

“I must pay credit to my colleagues, bosses and senior managers at Reach plc for their continuing support which has been unwavering and a massive source of comfort. I only hope now that everyone can see what really happened and leave myself and the victims alone.”

According to Lancs Live’s coverage of her case, Williams had published pictures of her injuries and an account of being groomed, trafficked and beaten, on Facebook in May 2020, in a post which was shared more than 100,000 times.

It sparked demonstrations in her hometown and led to far-right leader Tommy Robinson visiting the Barrow to “investigate” the claims.

Jonathan Sandiford KC, prosecuting, claimed Williams caused the injuries to herself with a hammer, which was found with her blood on close by.

Mr Sandiford said the incident was a “finale” to a series of false allegations made by Williams, which included accusations of rape against a number of men.

During her evidence, Williams denied telling a “pack of lies” to the police and the jury.

She had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to one count of perverting the course of justice, which related to contacting her sister and mother with requests for them to take a hammer to her solicitor.

She will be sentenced on March 13 and 14 this year.