The Maidenhead Advertiser reported the conviction of Oliver Rowland
A reporter confessed to being wanted by police in connection with an alleged sexual attack after seeing a witness appeal which was due to appear in his own paper.
Oliver Rowland, 32, was convicted at Reading Crown Court of indecently assaulting a 12-year-old boy and was told by the judge to expect a prison sentence. He immediately resigned from his job as a senior reporter on the Maidenhead Advertiser.
A jury heard that Rowland had encountered the child in remote moorland and accused him of stealing his keys. He was said to have committed an assault after putting a hand in the boy’s pocket when he claimed to be looking for the missing keys.
The child reported the alleged sex attack to police and described the man he saw as having a round face and wearing a camel suede jacket.
When the Maidenhead Advertiser (circulation 28,630) received a police press release about the attack, the editor reportedly decided to run the story on the front page.
However, when Rowland saw the page being designed, five days after his encounter with the child, he realised that the wanted man was himself.
When he told his editor, the police were contacted and Rowland was arrested and interviewed.
Advertiser editorial director Martin Trepte told the court: “While I was discussing the story with my colleagues, Oliver Rowland asked to speak to me privately and we went into my office.
“He was quite upset and said that he thought the person who was the object of the police appeal for witnesses was himself and went on to say he had been involved in an encounter with a young person on the moor.”
Trepte said Rowland told him about the incident, claiming he purely patted the boy’s trousers down in a search for his keys. “He said he thought nothing of it until this press release came through which had obviously shocked him to the core.
“I think we were all of the understanding that we could speak to the police and this misunderstanding would be cleared up. I never thought I would be here in crown court giving evidence.
“Oliver continued to work for us: we spoke to our legal team and decided it was right to go with the principle of innocent until proven guilty. He has been on restricted duty that he does not work with children or cover stories involving children. He took this as a fact of the situation.”
Rowland admitted that putting his hand in the boy’s pocket was “probably the wrong thing to do”.
He said: “I wasn’t aware he was upset. I did say ‘Have you got my keys, I can’t find my keys’.
“I patted his pocket first then started to feel inside. To my knowledge, I did not put my hand near the centre of his body.”
Judge Zoe Smith deferred sentencing until September 24.
By Dominic Ponsford