Lincs editor vows to retrain news staff after trial collapses

An evening newspaper editor has pledged to retrain his news journalists in Crown Court reporting after being ordered to appear in front of a judge following the collapse of a trial.

The robbery trial at Lincoln Crown Court collapsed on its second day after the Lincolnshire Echo reported details about the defendant given in the absence of the jury.

The defendant now faces a second trial at a venue outside the circulation area of the newspaper.

At a hearing after the trial was halted, Recorder Philip Shears QC demanded an explanation from Lincolnshire Echo editor Mike Sassi, telling him: "This is not the first time that there have been difficulties over appropriate reporting. It is a very serious matter."

The Recorder said "alarm bells" should have rung in the checking of any report of a trial before a jury that included the type of information which caused the problem.

He said: "It seems to me such a basic rule that I am amazed you didn’t think about it at the time."

The Recorder warned that contempt of court proceedings would be considered if any similar problems occurred in the future. "What training regime or what steps are you going to take to make sure this does not happen again?" he asked.

Sassi described the report as a genuine error and said the reporter concerned had been disciplined.

"I apologise unreservedly," he said. "The individual concerned has been disciplined and will not be sent to Crown Court without a period of retraining. Every future reporter sent to Crown Court will have to undergo training."

Sassi said every member of staff had McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists and after taking over as editor one of the first things he did was to renew the newspaper’s NCTJ accreditation.

"The people here probably have more training than they have had in the last five years," he told the court.

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