Press wins battle to print child attacker's picture

People: backed agency in fight

A news agency and a Sunday news-paper have won a battle to publish a picture from a video used to convict a paedophile.

Thames Valley Police refused to release an image of sex attacker David Midwinter – even though the photograph of him was taken by a vigilante camcorder amateur who caught him in the act.

Prosecutors used the video footage of Midwinter’s assault on a four-year-old girl to obtain a conviction at Reading Crown Court.

But when the cameraman asked for the tape to be handed to the media to expose the paedophile, the police refused.

Midwinter was caught on video by his neighbour Mark Hurst, who saw the attack taking place on the street near his Berkshire home. The jury was shown the tape and went on to convict the 50 year old of indecent assault.

Sentencing Midwinter, Judge Stanley Spence put him on the Sex Offenders Register and ordered him to live in a residential home in Peterborough.

When INS News Group asked the police for a photograph of Midwinter they refused.

Neil Hyde, the agency’s editor, said: "Incredibly, Thames Valley Police said that Midwinter’s social services escort could be at risk if the public recognised the defendant from the picture.

"We challenged this view but they were adamant that publication of Midwinter’s photo could put his minder in danger from possible paedophile attackers.

"We were joined by the Sunday People in our battle. The head of Trinity Mirror’s legal department, Marcus Partington, and the Sunday People’s news editor, Ian Edmondson, played a huge part in the campaign to obtain the photo."

Hurst wrote a letter assigning his copyright of the video to the Sunday People and a fee of £1 was paid to make it legally binding.

But the police still refused to release the video, claiming it was potentially pornographic.

Hyde said: "Eventually the police were persuaded to copy a video still showing Midwinter under a tree from the tape.

"It took four weeks to accomplish something which should have been done in an hour.

"Publication of the photo was one of the clearest public interest situations I have encountered in years – especially as the image was taken by a member of the public."

By Jon Slattery

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