Cornwall Live journalist inadvertently becomes witness in police investigation while reporting on story

A regional journalist inadvertently became an integral part of a story he was investigating after being asked to become a witness in a police case.

Jeff Reines, head of content at regional news website Cornwall Live, said things “started to get a bit strange” when he was asked to give a witness statement to police but added that he was “perfectly happy that it was the right thing to do”.

Reines (pictured) was following up a tip-off from a reader about a Facebook post by local man Eric King that they said included “violent threats towards Muslims”.

The post on King’s Facebook page, pictured here on Cornwall Live, read: “Why are we being forced to except [sic] all these immigrants, they are the scum of the world and I hate every one of them.

“I have no worries about ending the life of any Muslim… The day is coming when we the white true people of the UK will revolt and take our country back.”

Reines began to report on the story as normal and went to King and the police for comment, as the source had said they had already reported the post.

However Reines said: “When I went to the press office they said they had no record of it and could I give them some more information so I sent them screenshots of Eric King’s posts.”

The email was then forwarded to the police 101 email, where people are advised to report non-emergency crimes.

“Later I realised this effectively made me the person that reported the alleged crime,” said Reines.

King was arrested and, during the subsequent investigation, Reines was contacted by a police detective asking for a statement.

Reienes told Press Gazette: “It struck me as a bit strange as the source had claimed they’d reported it to the police.”

He added: “As a journalist you generally keep a distance from these things and let the processes run their course.

“You report the crimes or related crimes as the process of justice is meant to be seen to be done in public so you don’t get involved personally.

“However I’ve seen these posts, they offended me, they were out of line and talked about killing Muslims.

“They have no place in our society and as a human being and a local member of the community I felt strongly enough that I would give a statement saying so. I did and it became part of the case.”

Reines admitted that it felt “strange” but believed “it was the right thing to do”.

King was charged under the Malicious Communications Act 1998, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to two four-month jail sentences, suspended for 12 months, to run concurrently.

Writing about his experience on Cornwall Live Reines claimed that King had hit back at the Reach-owned news brand, saying over email: “You load of shit stirrers, it didn’t work I’m still free.”

Reines said: “To my mind there is no did work or didn’t work, he’s been brought to justice and was given the sentence that the courts deemed appropriate.

“So, as far as I’m concerned, actually Eric it did work.”

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