Swindon paper overturns court address ban

A defence lawyer accused the Swindon Evening Advertiser of wanting to create mischief by publishing the address of a couple facing child pornography charges.

He succeeded initially in persuading a magistrate to impose a Section 11 Order, under the Contempt of Court Act, restricting journalists from printing the address of John Clarke and Lesley Davies. The lawyer argued that the couple had already been forced to move once because of the public attention prompted by a police search of their home.

The Advertiser overturned the ban by arguing that not publishing the address would create a risk of accidentally libeling someone with the same name who also lived in Swindon.

At the couple’s second court appearance, reporter Tina Clarke went armed with a letter from parent company Newsquest’s head of legal affairs, Simon Westrop. In it, he said that the ban “creates an obvious risk of legal action in libel and effectively inhibits the newspaper’s ability to report the case freely”.

He added: “On behalf of those third parties wrongly identified, I would ask the court to take account of the likely distress they will suffer.”

The judge agreed to a compromise suggested by Westrop in which the Advertiser only published the street name of the couple’s address, not the house number.

Editor Mark Waldron said: “This is another case of courts enforcing reporting restrictions without authority.

It is only through the vigilance of our reporters that we can continue to overturn these spurious decisions.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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