Banned newsletter editor vows to fight authorities

By Dominic Ponsford

The editor of a small Glasgow newsletter has been banned by the
city’s police and council press offices as well as the main Sheriff’s
Court.

According to the Glasgow authorities, James Cruickshank’s newsletter
The Digger is often libellous and has broken the Editors’ Code of
Practice.

But Cruickshank believes he is being gagged without going through fair legal or regulatory procedures.

He
said: “I am standing up to the establishment and they are not having it
– they are trying to destroy me. I’m saying things that they don’t want
to hear, but people want to read it.”

Cruickshank started
publishing The Digger last August from a council estate in Possil,
Glasgow, one of the poorest areas in Europe. He claims it has grown
from an initial print run of 500 to weekly sales of 6,000 at 58
newsagents in north Glasgow.

The A5 newsletter consists mainly of
council, crime and court stories. But Cruickshank has now been denied
access to the police press office, Glasgow City Council press office
and to the daily court crime lists.

Sheriff Edward Bowen said
Cruickshank’s journalistic priviledges had been withdrawn because of a
story in The Digger that named and pictured an eight-year-old girl
wearing a bulletproof vest in her garden. According to Bowen, the story
breaches clause six of the Code of Practice (dealing with children),
but Cruickshank believes he has a public interest defence for using the
photo, which was taken without parental consent.

In a letter to Cruickshank’s union, the BAJ, Bowen explained why “privileges”

such as access to court records had been withdrawn.

He
said: “The courts must have confidence that those to whom such
privileges are afforded will conduct the profession of journalism
responsibly and in accordance with the recognised ethical guidelines
and codes of practice.

“It is far from clear to me that Mr Cruickshank can be relied upon to act in this fashion.”

Glasgow
police press office declined to reveal why it refuses to deal with
Cruickshank. But a spokeswoman said: “We have an excellent relationship
with Glasgow’s many official local newspapers.”

Glasgow City
Council spokesman Jim Clarke said: “After a substantial investigation,
we have come to the conclusion that we would not recognise him as a
bona fide journalist. He has failed to produce evidence to back up his
claim that he was a bona fide journalist.

He took his complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman, who rejected it out of hand.”

BAJ
general secretary Steve Turner said: “If James is causing offence to
people, the remedies of the law are available and the remedies of the
PCC. I don’t think there’s enough substance in the complaint to even
remotely justify depriving James of his livelihood and stop him
informing the public of what’s going on in the courts.

“If he is breaking the law, then do something about it, but we can’t have him condemned by innuendo.”

In
2003 Cruickshank was expelled from the NUJ after publishing a
unionfunded newsletter that the union leadership claimed was
“libellous, breached the union’s own Code of Conduct and was factually
incorrect”.

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